Drakenstein, Hendrick

Hendrick Adriaan van Rheede tot Drakenstein (1636-1691)
From: Hortus Malabaricus
Amsterdam: 1678-1693
Hand-colored copperplate engravings
18 ¼” x 22” framed; 13½ x 17 unframed

Hortus Malabaricus is the oldest comprehensive printed book on the natural plant wealth of Asia and of the tropics. It was compiled and printed by Hendrik Adriaan van Rheede tot Draakestein, the then Dutch Governor of Cochin, a princely state of India, and published in 12 volumes, double folio size, in Amsterdam from 1678 through 1693.

Van Rheede’s Hortus Malabaricus is the result of 30 years of compiling and editing information from a team of the best of 17th century European physicians, scientest, technicians, illustrators and engravers, which collaboration of scholars from all over India. It is of great importance today as a rare record of the plant wealth of Kerala (India) and medicinal uses of those plants, and is the only source of information about ancient Indian medicinal plants.

The entire text of this book is in Latin. Comprising 1,595 pages of text, the original book contains descriptions and illustrations of 742 plants. Included in the plant descriptions are the medical properties of the plants, the respective diseases for which they were used for treatment and the modes of treatment as known to the ancient, renowned traditional physicians of Malabar (Kerala). The plants are described under their names in the regional language of Malayalam, which was the language used by the natives of Cohin during the 17th century. The plates of the plants themselves are copperplate engravings with beautiful hand coloring. Additionally, the introductions, forewards, dedications and other details given in the various volumes contain much information about the cultural, social, political, historical and linguistic conditions of India.

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