You are here:Home/Research/ Support for Research/ Fellowships/ Fellowship Reports/ 2014–2015/ Pietro Andrea Mattioli’s Discorsi on Dioscorides: The Publishing Strategies behind a Renaissance Best Seller

Pietro Andrea Mattioli’s Discorsi on Dioscorides: The Publishing Strategies behind a Renaissance Best Seller

Ilaria Andreoli, CNRS/Université de Caen Basse-Normandie, Summer Fellow 2014

My project implied first that I explore the long history of illustrated herbals, with particular attention to the tradition of Dioscorides’ text in Byzantine illustrated manuscripts—the Rare Book Collection of facsimiles was particularly helpful in this regard—and to the relationship between textual description and woodcut illustration in the founding texts of the history of botany prior to Mattioli: the German treatises of Bock, Brunsfels, and Fuchs, which I analyzed directly from copies in the Rare Book Reading Room. I then compiled a descriptive bibliography of all editions of Mattioli’s text published in Italy, France, the Czech Republic, and Germany during the sixteenth century, paying particular attention to their paratext (prefaces, dedications, letters, etc.) and to the two series of woodblocks that were a key element in the Discorsi’s lasting success beyond the Renaissance period, through reemploys and copies. For this, I united the resources of the Rare Book Collection, the Library, and the Harvard libraries—through their efficient interlibrary loan system—with those of the National Library of Medicine and the Folger Library. This provided me with the solid evidence that I needed to understand in detail the subtle publishing strategies of Mattioli and his Venetian publisher, Vincenzo Valgrisi, who was particularly adept at combining literary patronage and market forces, at emphasizing the discovery of new plants, and at fighting pirated editions.