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Manuscript Kassel; 9th century, Mandragora

Pseudo-Apuleius is the name given in modern scholarship to the author of a 4th-century herbal known as Pseudo-Apuleius Herbarius or Herbarium Apuleii Platonici. The author of the text apparently wished readers to think that it was by Apuleius of Madaura (124–170 CE), the Roman poet and philosopher, but modern scholars do not believe this attribution. Little or nothing else is known of Pseudo-Apuleius apart from this.

The oldest surviving manuscript of the Herbarium is the 6th-century Leiden, MS. Voss. Q.9. Until the 12th century it was the most influential herbal in Europe, with numerous extant copies surviving into the modern era, along with several copies of an Old English translation. Thereafter, it was more or less displaced by the Circa instans, a herbal produced at the school of Salerno. "Pseudo-Apuleius" is also used as a shorthand generic term to refer to the manuscripts and derived works.

Pseudo-Apuleius Herbarius[edit]



The text of Pseudo-Apuleius Herbarius is based on late antique sources, especially Pliny's Historia naturalis and Discorides's De materia medica. Scholars agree that it was compiled in the 4th century, according to Sigerist (1930, p. 200) from Latin, according to Singer (1927, p. 37) from Greek sources. Each of the 128 to 131 chapters (the number varying between manuscripts) deals with one medical plant. In these chapters the name of the plant is followed by the enumeration of indications in the form of recipes and by synonyms of the plant's name.

For example: Chapter 89, Herba millefolium (Edition of Howald/Sigerist 1927):

Text (Howald/Sigerist 1927) Translation
Herba millefolium The herb millefolium [now interpreted as Achillea millefolium]
1. Ad dentium dolorem. Herbae millefolium radicem ieiunus conmanducet. 1. For toothache. The root of the herb millefolium should be chewed before breakfast.
2. Ad uulnera de ferro facta. Herba millefolium cum axungia pistata et inposita uulnera purgat et sanat. 2. For wounds inflicted by iron. If you put on the herb millefolium crushed in fat, so it cleans and heals wounds.
3. Ad tumores. Herbam millefolium contusam cum butiro inpone. 3. For tumours. Put on the herb millefolium crushed in butter.
4. Ad urinae difficultatem. Herbae millefolium sucus cum aceto bibitur, mire sanat. 4. For difficulties of urination. The juice of the herb millefolium drunk mixed with wine vinegar, heals wonderfully.
Nomina herbae. A Graecis dicitur miriofillon, alii ambrosiam, alii ciliofillon, alii crisitis, Galli mulicandos, alii uigentia, Daci diodela, Itali millefolium, alii militaris, alii Achillion, alii supercilium Veneris, alii cereum siluaticum. Hanc herbam Achilles inuenit, unde ferro percussus sanabat, quae ob id Achillea uocatur, de hac sanasse Telephium dicitur. Names of the herb. The Greeks call it miriofillon, others ambrosia, others ciliofillon, others crisitis. The Gauls [call it] mulicandos, others vigentia. The Dacians [call it] diodela. The Italians [call it] millefolium, others militaris, others Achillion, others supercilium Veneris, others cereum silvaticum. This herb was discovered by Achilles because it healed wounds, beaten by iron. It was therefore named Achillea.
[Interpolationes ex Diosc.] Nascitur in palustris locis … [Interpolations from the De materia medica of Dioscorides.] It grows in swampy areas …

Associated texts[edit]

In the surviving codices the Pseudo-Apuleius Herbarius was combined with other treatises:

  1. De herba vettonica. Treatise dealing with the herb Stachys officinalis. It was falsely ascribed to Antonius Musa, physician of the Roman emperor Augustus.
  2. Pseudo-Apuleius Herbarius.
  3. De taxone liber. Anonymous treatise on the use of the European badger in medicine.
  4. Liber medicinae ex animalibus ascribed to an unknown Roman physician named "Sextus Placitus Papyriensis".[1]
  5. (Pseudo-)Dioscorides de herbis femininis. According to Riddle[2] written before the 6th century in South-Europe.[3]
  6. Precatio terrae matris (Incantation of the mother of earth) and Precatio omnium herbarum (Incantation of all herbs).[4]


Manuscript classes according to Howald-Sigerist 1927 edition.
Simplified schedule by Singer 1927.

Howald and Sigerist (edition 1927, V–XVI) divided the codices into 3 classes (α, β and γ) according to the varying mixture of associated texts in the codices:

  • α-class containing parts 1, 2, 3, 4a and 5, moreover better synonyms than in the β-class-texts and no interpolations. The α-class is considered to be the class with the best text-tradition.
  • β-class containing parts 1, 2, 3, 4b, 5 and 6, moreover interpolations. The ß-class is considered to be the class with the best illustrations.
  • γ-class containing parts 1, 2 and 6, without the interpolations of the β-class. γ-class contains the oldest manuscripts.
Class Abbreviation (Howald/Sigerist) Name of the codex Century
α Ca Monte Cassino, Archivo de la Badia, Cod. 97[5] 09th century.
α M Munich, Bayrische Staatsbibliothek, Fragmenta Emeranensia, Clm 14672, 14766 und 15028, in all 8 pages.[6][7] 07th century.
α L Lucca, Bibliotheka Governativa, MS. 296[8] 09th century.
α Hal Halberstadt, Domschatz (Bibliothek des Domgymnasiums), Inv.-Nr. 465–466 fol. Ir–IIv, Palimpsest (upper writing). 07th century.
α Be Berlin, Staatsbibliothek Fragmentum Berolinense Ms. Lat. fol. 381 no. 1 08th century.
α Ha London, British Library, Harley MS 4986[9] 12th century.
α V Vienna, Codex Vindobonensis 187 (nach Grape-Albers 1977, p. 3: Eton College MS. 204)[10] 12th century.
α A London, British Library, MS Cotton Vitellius C. iii 11th century.
β Hil Hildesheim, Beverinsche Bibliothek, MS. 658[11] 08th century.
β Vr Bratislava, Codex Vratislaviensis Bibl. univ. III F 19 09th century.
β Bodley 130 Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Bodley 130[12][13] 11th century.
β He Herten, Codicis medici Hertensis, destroyed by fire[14] 09th century.
β B Bamberg, Codex Bambergensis med 8 (L III.15) 13th century.
β Laur. 7341 Florence, Bibliotheca Laurenziana, MS. 73,41 09th century.
β Va Vatican, Codex Vaticanus Barberinus 160 11th century.
β Vat. Lat. 6337 Vatican, Codex Vaticanus lat. 6337 15th century.
β Laur. 7316 Florence, Bibliotheca Laurenziana, MS. 73,16 13th century.
β Vi Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Herbarium Apuleii Platonici|Codex Vindobonensis 93[15] 13th century.
β Arsenal 1031 Paris, Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal, Codex 1031 15th century.
β Paris 6862 Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, MS. lat. 6862 10th century.
β Ber Berlin, Codex Berolinensis Hamil. 307 15th century.
γ E Fragmentum Epporigiense 07th century.
γ Vo Leiden, Universitätsbibliothek, MS. Voss. Lat. Q. 9 06th century.
γ C Kassel, Landesbibliothek, 2° MS. phys. et hist. nat. 10[16] 10th century.

Singer (1927), Grape-Albers (1977, pp. 2–5) and Collins (2000) cited more manuscripts:

  • St. Gallen, Stiftsbibliothek, Cod. 217, 9th century.[17][18]
  • London, British Library, Harley MS 585, 11th – 12th century.[19]
  • London, British Library, Harley MS 1585, 12th century.[20]
  • London, British Library, Harley MS 5294, 12th century.[21]
  • London, British Library, Harley MS 6258 B, 12th century.[22]
  • London, British Library, Sloane MS 1975, 12th century.[23]
  • Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Ashmole 1431, 11th century.[24]
  • Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Ashmole 1462, 12th century.[25]
  • Turin, Bibliotheca Universitaria, MS. K IV 3, 11th century, destroyed by fire.

Several more manuscripts can be added (see Mylène Pradel-Baquerre 2013 and Claudine Chavannes-Mazel 2016):

  • Leiden, University Library, MS BPL 1283, c 1300 (related to Lucca)
  • Leiden, University Library, MS Voss.Lat.Qu. 13, 10th century (Anglo-Saxon group)
  • Leiden, University Library, MS Voss.Lat.Qu. 40, 11th century (German group)
  • Montpellier, Bibliothèque de l'Ecole de Médecine, MS 277, 15th century
  • The Hague, Museum Meermanno-Westreenianum MS 10 D 7, 10th century (alpha group)

Translation: the Old English Herbarium[edit]

Page of the Old English Herbarium in Cotton Vitellius C. iii.

A version of the Pseudo-Apuleius Herbarius was translated into Old English, surviving now in four manuscripts:

  • London, British Library, Cotton MS Vitellius C. iii (illustrated)
  • Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Hatton 76
  • London, British Library, Harley MS 585
  • London, British Library, Harley MS 6258 B (updated into early Middle English)

Like many of the Latin manuscripts, it includes the Herbarium of Pseudo-Apuleius, De herba vetonica, De taxone, medicina de quadrupedibus, and the Liber medicinae ex herbis feminis.[26] It was first edited and translated by Oswald Cockayne,[27] re-edited in 1984 by Jan de Vriend,[28] and re-translated in 2002 by Anne Van Arsdall.[26] A variety of dates and places have been suggested for the production of this translation, ranging from eighth-century Northumbria to late-tenth-century Winchester, with recent scholarship tending towards tenth-century Wessex.[29]

Incunabula and early printings[edit]

Based on a 9th-century manuscript of Monte Cassino the first incunable of Pseudo-Apuleius Herbarius was printed in Rome in 1481.[30][31][32]

The first printing in northern Europe was done in 1537 in Zürich.[33]


  • Howald, Ernst; Sigerist, Henry E. (1927). "Antonii Musae De herba vettonica, Liber Pseudo-Apulei her-barius, Anonymi De taxone liber, Sexti Placiti Liber medicinae ex animalibus". Teubner. Corpus medicorum latinorum (in Latin). Vol. IV. Leipzig.
  • de Vriend, Hubert Jan (ed.), The Old English Herbarium and Medicina de Quadrupedibus, The Early English Text Society, 286 (London: Oxford University Press, 1984). (Contains a Latin text alongside the Old English.)
  • Kai Brodersen (2015). Apuleius, Heilkräuterbuch / Herbarius, Latin and German. Marix, Wiesbaden. ISBN 978-3-7374-0999-5


  • Collins, Minta (September 2000). Medieval Herbals. The Illustrative Traditions. British Library Studies in Medieval Culture. London: University of Toronto Press. pp. 165–220. ISBN 9780802083135.
  • Grape-Albers, Heide (1977). Spätantike Bilder aus der Welt des Arztes. Medizinische Bilderhandschriften der Spätantike und ihre mittelalterliche Überlieferung [Late Antiquity images from the world of the physician. Medical illuminated manuscripts of the late antiquity and medieval tradition] (in German). Wiesbaden: Guido Pressler. ISBN 9783876460376.
  • Hollis, Stephanie; Wright, Michael (1992). Old English prose of secular learning. Cambridge: Brewer. ISBN 9780859913430.
  • Sigerist, Henry E. (1930). "Zum Herbarius Pseudo-Apuleius". Sudhoffs Archiv (in German). 23: 197–204.
  • Singer, Charles (1927). "The Herbal in the Antiquity". The Journal of Hellenic Studies. XLVII: 1–52 (37–48). doi:10.2307/625251. JSTOR 625251.
  • Sudhoff, Karl (1916). "Szenen aus der Sprechstunde und bei Krankenbesuchen des Arztes in mittelalterlichen Handschriften". Sudhoffs Archiv (in German). 10: 71–90.
  • Swarzenski, Georg (1902). "Mittelalterliche Kopien einer antiken medizinischen Bilderhandschrift". Jahrbuch des kaiserlichen deutschen archäologischen Instituts (in German). XVII: 45–53.


  1. ^ Printing: Sexti Placiti Papyriensis, de medicamentis ex animalibus, libellus. Nürnberg: Johann Petri. 1538.
  2. ^ Riddle, John (1980). "Dioscorides" (PDF). Catalogus Translationum et Commentariorum. 4: 125–126. Retrieved 28 August 2015.
  3. ^ Edition: H. F. Kästner. Pseudo-Dioscorides de herbis feminis. In: Hermes, Bd. 31 (1896), S. 578-636
  4. ^ In English translation according to Harley MS 1585 (London, British Library, previously British Museum, 12. Jh.) in: Singer 1927, p. 48.
  5. ^ Hunger, F. W. T. (1935). The Herbal of Pseudo-Apuleius. From the ninth-century manuscript in the abbey of Monte Cassino (Codex Casinensis 97) together with the first printed edition of Joh. Philippus de Lignamine (Edition princeps Romae 1481) both in facsimile, described and annotated. Leyden: Brill.
  6. ^ Spengel, Leonhard v. (1864). "III". Codex Monac. Emer. E XLIII. Philologus (in German). Vol. XXI. Göttingen. pp. 119ff.
  7. ^ Sudhoff, Karl (1915), "Die Fragmenta Emmeranensia des Pseudo-Apuleius in München und der Leidener Sammelkodex Cod. Voss. Lat. Q. 9.", Sudhoffs Archiv (in German), vol. 8, pp. 446–450
  8. ^ Mancini, Augustus (1904). "Pseudo Apulei Libellum de medicaminibus herbarum ex codice Lucensi 296, descripsit, prolegomenis auxit Augustus Mancini". Atti della Reale Accademia Lucchese di Science, Lettere ed Arti. (in Italian). XXII: 251–301.
  9. ^ "Pharmacopeial compilation". Harley MS 4986. British Library.
  10. ^ Reiche, Rainer (1973). "Deutsche Pflanzenglossen aus Codex Vindobonensis 187 und Codex Stuttgart HB XI 46". Sudhoffs Archiv. 57: 1–14.
  11. ^ Lehmann, Paul (1914). "Apuleiusfragmente". Hermes. 49: 612–620 (616).
  12. ^ Gunther, R. T. (1925). The herbal of Apuleius Barbarus, from the 12th-century manuscript formerly in the abbey of Bury St. Edmunds (Oxford, MS. Bodl. 130). Oxford: The Roxburgh Club.
  13. ^ "Ps.-Apuleius, Dioscorides, Herbals (extracts); De virtutibus bestiarum in arte medicinae, in Latin and English England, Bury St. Edmunds; 11th century, late". MS. Bodl. 130. Oxford: Bodlean Library.
  14. ^ Sudhoff, Karl (1917). "Codex medicus Hertensis (Nr. 192). Handschriftenstudie". Sudhoffs Archiv. X: 265–313.
  15. ^ Zotter, Hans (1996). Kommentar zur Faksimileausgabe des Codex Vindobonensis 93 (in German). Graz: Akad. Dr.- und Verl.-Anstalt. ISBN 3-201-01659-4.
  16. ^ "Pseudo-Apuleius: De herbarum medicaminibus. Pseudo-Antonius Musa: De herba betonica". 2° Ms. phys. et hist. nat. 10. Kassel.
  17. ^ Landgraf, E. (1928). "Ein frühmittelalterlicher Botanikus. Diss. med. Leipzig". Kyklos (in German). 1: 1–35.
  18. ^ Niederer, Monica (2005). Der St. Galler Botanicus. Ein frühmittelalterliches Herbar. Kritische Edition, Übersetzung und Kommentar (in German). Bern: Peter Lang. ISBN 9783039101955.
  19. ^ "Medical miscellany". Harley MS 585. British Library.
  20. ^ "Illustrated pharmacopeial compilation". Harley MS 1585. British Library.
  21. ^ "Pharmacopeial compilation". Harley MS 5294. British Library.
  22. ^ "Medical miscellany". Harley MS 6258 B. British Library.
  23. ^ "Medical and herbal collection, including Pseudo-Apuleius, Herbarius; Pseudo-Dioscorides, De herbis femininis (ff. 49v–73); Sextus Placitus, De medicina ex animalibus". MS. Sloane 1975. British Library.
  24. ^ "Ps. Apuleius, Herbal England, St. Augustine's abbey, Canterbury; 11th century, c. 1070–1100". MS Ashmole 1431. Oxford: Ashmolean Museum.
  25. ^ "Miscellaneous medical and herbal texts, in Latin England, late 12th century". Ms Ashmole 1462. Oxford: Ashmolean Museum.
  26. ^ a b Anne Van Arsdall (trans.), Medieval Herbal Remedies: The Old English Herbarium and Anglo-Saxon Medicine (New York: Routledge 2002).
  27. ^ Cockayne, Oswald (1864). Leechdoms Wortcunning, and Starcraft of Early England Being a Collection of Documents, for the Most Part Never Before Printed Illustrating the History of Science in this Country Before the Norman Conquest. Rerum Britannicarum Medii Ævi Scriptores (Rolls Series). Vol. I. London. (Based on London, British Library, MS Cotton Vitellius C. iii.)
  28. ^ Hubert Jan de Vriend (ed.), The Old English Herbarium and Medicina de Quadrupedibus, The Early English Text Society, 286 (London: Oxford University Press, 1984).
  29. ^ Article Hall (2013), 'Elleborus in Anglo-Saxon England, 900–1100: Tunsingwyrt and Wodewistle', Leeds Studies in English, new series, 44 (2013), 70-93 (p. 73).
  30. ^ Gonzage, Franzesco; Iulius (1481–1482). Herbarium Apulei Platonici. Rome: Johannes Philippus de Ligmanine. (Digitised at the Bavarian State Library)
  31. ^ Hunger, F. W. T. (1935). The Herbal of Pseudo-Apuleius. From the ninth-century manuscript in the abbey of Monte Cassino (Codex Casinensis 97) together with the first printed edition of Joh. Philippus de Lignamine (Edition princeps Romae 1481) both in facsimile, described and annotated. Leyden: Brill.
  32. ^ Ivins, William M. "The Herbal of 'Pseudo-Apuleius'" (PDF). New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art. Retrieved 2014-12-02.
  33. ^ Antonius; Hummelberger, Gabriel (1537). "De herba vetonica" (in Latin). Tigurum. (Digitised at the Bavarian State Library)

External links[edit]