Naples Dioscurides

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Folio 90v of the 'Naples Dioscurides' (a manuscript of De Materia Medica) with illustrations of the Mandrake

The Naples Dioscurides in the Biblioteca Nazionale, Naples (MS Suppl. gr. 28), is an illuminated manuscript early 7th-century Greek herbal. The book has 172 folios and a page size of 29.7 x 14 cm (11 11/16 x 5 1/2 inches) and the text is a redaction of De Materia Medica by the 1st century Greek military physician Dioscorides, with descriptions of plants and their medicinal uses.[1] Unlike De Materia Medica, the text is arranged alphabetically by plant. The codex derives independently[2] from the same model as the Vienna Dioscurides, which was created ca. 512 for a Byzantine princess, but differs from it significantly: [3] though the illustrations follow the same inferred model, they are rendered more naturalistically in the Naples Dioscurides. Additionally, in the Naples manuscript, the illustrations occupy the top half of each folio, rather than being full page miniatures as in the Vienna Dioscurides. The plant descriptions are recorded below the illustration in two or three rather narrow columns, recalling the arrangement the earliest scroll version of the work would have had, before the codex form became near-universal. The script is somewhat rough and uneven, and the painting style of the miniatures less precise and naturalistic than the Vienna manuscript, indicating a certain falling-off in standards.[4] The style of Greek script used in the manuscript indicates that it was probably written in Byzantine-ruled southern Italy, where ancient Greek cultural traditions remained strong, although it is not known exactly where it was produced.

Marginal notes indicate that the manuscript had contact with the medical school at Salerno in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.

A luxurious facsimile has been published by Salerno Editrice, Rome, in collaboration with Akademische Druck of Graz, Austria, publishers of a comparable facsimile of the Vienna Dioscurides.


  1. ^ Weitzmann, 206
  2. ^ David H. Wright, "Traditio and Inventio in Iconographic Transmission," Eighth Byzantine Studies Conference, Chicago 1982
  3. ^ Dioscorides, Pedanius. "Of Medical Substances - De materia medica - Dioscurides Neapolitanus". World Digital Library. Retrieved 2014-06-20. 
  4. ^ Weitzmann, 206-207