DASHM adopts Jacob Bigelow’s American Medical Botany

We’re pleased to announce that two of our books have been adopted!

The UCSF Department of Anthropology, History, & Social Medicine has chosen to conserve American Medical Botany. Read more about the book from the perspective of Sarah Robertson, a PhD student in the department.

Additionally, the always supportive Bay Area History of Medicine Society has graciously taken De humani corporis fabrica libri septem under its wing.

Season’s Greetings!

We’ve no shortage of stunning, interesting, and unique images in our collections. The task of choosing an image to feature on the library’s holiday card brought up a wealth of options. The winner? The lovely Magnolia below.


Magnolica Glauca, Plate XXVII

The Magnolia glauca, or small magnolia, comes to us from Jacob Bigelow’s American Medical Botany, 1817-1820. According to Bigelow, Magnolias “are distinguished by their rich, smooth foliage, large fragrant flowers, and aromatic bark… They begin to flower in different parts of the United States in May, June and July. The flowers are highly fragrant, and may be perceived by their perfume at a considerable distance.” The text goes on to classify Magnolia as an aromatic tonic that is most effective in treating chronic rheumatism.

Published as a three volume set in Boston, American Medical Botany is a compendium of plants and their medicinal uses. Each plant is illustrated and described in detail. American Medical Botany was one of the first botanical books printed with color. (The other, also in our collection, is Benjamin Barton’s Vegetable Materia Medica of the United States of the same year.) To avoid the time-consuming process of hand-coloring each of the sixty plates in each printing, Bigelow invented a mechanical method of printing the engraved plates and tinting them simultaneously. Read on to see more beautiful prints!

Continue reading

Prosper Alpini’s De Plantis Exoticis

One of the many volumes in the UCSF Special Collections is a first edition of De Plantis Exoticis, written by Prosper Alpini and first published in 1627. Take a look at the engraved title page below:

Alpini, Prospero, De Plantis Exoticis

Alpini, Prosper, De Plantis Exoticis, title page

De Plantis Exoticis, edited posthumously by Aplini’s son, builds on an earlier work of the author’s, De Plantis Aegypti liber1592. Exoticis boasts 145 beautiful, full-page engravings of plants, comprising nearly half of the entire volume.

Alpini, Prosper, De Plantis Exoticis

Alpini, Prosper, De Plantis Exoticis

Alpini was born in the Republic of Venice in 1553 and died at the age of 63 in 1617. During his career he was a personal physician and a professor of botany at Padua. Alpini was the first to publish descriptions of many plants that were unknown to other botanists at the time. Much of this information was gathered during his travels to Crete, other Greek islands, and Egypt.

Alpini, Prosper, De Plantis Exoticis, p. 46

Alpini, Prosper, De Plantis Exoticis, p. 46

Alpini, Prosper, De Plantis Exoticis, p. 12-125

Alpini, Prosper, De Plantis Exoticis, p. 124-125