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Journeys Scurvy Herbals Vesalius


FERRARI, GIOVANNI BATTISTA. Hesperides sive de malorum aureorum cultura et usu libri quatuor... Romae: Hermanni Scheus, 1646.

Giovanni Battista Ferrari's treatise, Hesperides sive de Malorum Aureorum Cultura et Usu Libri Quatuor, published in Rome in 1646, was described by C. F. Lummis in 1902 in Oranges 250 Years Ago as "... the handsomest, the fullest and the most erudite treatise on oranges ever printed... It is a tall folio - my copy in vellum -... in four books with one hundred and one full-page copper plates... a few allegorical, but the great majority are devoted to life-size drawings of the foliage, flowers, and fruit, round and in section, of rather rarer citrus varieties than are familiar today.... More accurate drawings of these fruits have never been printed... not only the varieties and even the 'freaks' of the Golden Apple, but the methods of planting, budding, wall-training and housing it."

An Italian Jesuit and full professor in Rome, Ferrari was an incredible linguist and broad scholar. He taught Hebrew for twenty-eight years and spoke classical Greek and Latin "more readily than the Italian vernacular." He wrote in a difficult to translate classical Latin "beyond the capacity of all students but specialists." A lover of flowers, he authored four volumes on the culture of flowers (1632) illustrated by some of the same engravers as was Hesperides.

He was the "first writer to collect all the evidence available on the location of the garden of the Hesperiden and on the stealing of the Apples."

Ferrari described numerous medicinal preparations based upon citrus blossoms or fruits. He notes that the orange is usually eaten for pleasure alone; the lemon, citron and pomegranate as medicine. He mentions only in passing using citrus to cure scurvy since his frame of reference is the Mediterranean world in which this disease was not a problem.

[View of Buda] One of the allegorical copperplates illustrating John Baptista Ferrari's treatise on oranges. The four-book work contains life-size drawings of the foliage, flowers, and fruit of the "Golden Apple" and other citrus varieties.

(The preceding description is based largely upon the approved thesis by Lily Thompson Hawkinson (June 1936) presented to the General Faculty of Claremont College in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Master of Arts, and which accompanied the original 1646 Latin edition in the library of the late A.J. Lorenz.)