Talk:De Materia Medica

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An omission[edit]

This article describes De Materia Medica as an illustrated book. So are the illustrations in the manuscripts of this work copied from their exemplars -- & possibly derive from the illustrations in the original -- or from nature, or a mixture of the two? I assume someone has investigated this, & there would be an analysis of these illustrations from an art-historian perspective. -- llywrch (talk) 15:24, 28 August 2014 (UTC)

Like all books until the age of printing, each new manuscript was copied laboriously by hand from an existing manuscript, which was very unlikely to be the original. The result was copies of copies of copies. This method continually introduced new errors, and then propagated them in copied texts, making it possible to trace 'family trees' of versions of the text. In the case of illustrations, each attempt at copying inevitably deviated a little further from the original. Your surmise that some copies were made with some knowledge of nature is possible, but just as likely is an element of decoration (some MS were decorated with gold as well as watercolour and ink), as seen in some of the illustrations in the article. Further, texts were sometimes freely modified, and generic illustrations added, without regard to the original at all; and in other MS the illustrations were dropped altogether. All this is to say that most of the question might concern an article like Manuscript. However, art historians have indeed investigated the process in Dioscorides manuscripts, and I'll mention this briefly in the article. Chiswick Chap (talk) 08:45, 30 August 2014 (UTC)