ALPINUS PROSPERUS

De plantis Aegypti liber ... Accessit etiam Alpini de Balsamo liber.
Date: Venice,F. De Franceschi Senese,1592
Cod. 9797
Matter: botanic
4.400,00 €
4to (mm 225x160); 2 parts in one volume. ff (4), 80 (but: 84), (8). With printer's device on both titlepages and 50 large woodcuts in text, large and clear, in the Mattioli style, many full-page. First edition of the first work on the plants of Egypt. Prospero Alpini (1553-1617) was a physician and botanist who graduated from Padua. In 1580 he became personal physician of the Venetian consult to Cairo and travelled to Egypt where he resided until 1583. Alpini was among the first of the italian physician-botanist of the sixteenth century to examine plants outside the context of their therapeutic uses. He helped to advance the frontiers of botanical science by taking advantage of knowledge gained through his travels. “De plantis Aegypti is his most important work. The pioneer study of Egyptian flora, it introduced exotic plants to the still-parochial European botanical circles…Fifty-seven plants and trees are described, and forty-nine are illustred. Alpini’s medical training led him to approach the new flora in traditional manner of attemting to correlate these plants with the names and descriptions found in classical sources. When this proved impossible, he described the plant under its local name. The descriptions are based upon specimens that Alpini personally examined, either cultivated in gardens or growing wild. This in itself provided a much-needed corrective to the fables and vague reports associated with Eastern plants. Among the plants previously underscribed in aEuropean botanical text were the coffee bush (Coffea arabica L.), banana (Musa sp. ), and baobab (Adansonia digitataL.) …Alpini observed that the fertilization of the date palm was a sexual process, described yhe phototropic movements of the leaves of the tamarind, speculated that the tree cotton was the byssos of the ancients, and noted the edibility of plants unknown in Europe, such as bammia or okra” (Jerry Stannard in DSB). The second work, first published in 1591, is “an early special treatise on balsam plants. The present book started a rather extensive literature on the subject, which was discussed throughout the 17th century. Very nice crisp copy in contemporary vellum. Marginal waterstain to preliminary leaves as well as at the end more evident. Alpini writes: "I saw in the garden of Halybey the Turk a tree [.] which is the source of those seeds, very common there, which are called Ban or Bon; from them everyone, Egyptians and Arabs alike, prepare a decoction which they drink instead of wine and which is sold in public bars just as is wine here and they call it 'Caova'. These seeds are imported from the Arabian peninsula [.]" (f. 26r, transl.). The coffee plant is pictured on f. 25v, captioned "Bon". Edit 16, CNCE 1244. BM-STC Italian 20. Johnston 136; Adams A 803. IA 103.853. Ibrahim-Hilmy I, 32. Gay 1678. Wellcome I, 233. Durling 179. Nissen BBI 20. Pritzel 111. Mueller 5 (& plate I). Hünersdorff I, 29-32, “Today this work is best known for containing the first European illustration of the coffee plant".

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