Thursday, 23 March 2017

Vermont MS 2: visaria / luccia minore

University of Vermont MS 2 is a late XV Century herbal from Central Italy (Tuscany). The top half of page 40 (image 37 in the online scans) illustrates a mysterious “erba visaria” with an impressive anthropomorphic flower. The herball, or, Generall historie of plantes (1636) by John Gerard and Thomas Johnson lists “bisaria” among the names of Dracunculus Arum, but this might be just a coincidence.

Transcription: [top right] erba luccia minore | luce di nocte | Erba visaria vel cifaricha nasce in luoghi alpestri | et prati montuosi fa e fiori come uno viso con fogle rosse dintorno et fa la | foglia del ghambo forchuta et rossa la somita della foglia e[t] luce di notte chome | stella vale [con]tra elmorso delcane rabbioso pesta e[t] posta su cura e[t] chaccia quello | veleno e[t] simile fa dogni morso danimale velenoso. vuolsi corre dimaggio o digiugno | o diluglo sotto il segno de gemini. Salda ogni ferita ilsuo sugho e[t]lerba in cinque hore | Alchunj erbolarij dichono che e spetie derba luccia minore p[er]che luce dinocte vuolsi | portarla in zendado biancho peroche ha molte virtu.

Translation: [top right] lesser lucia plant | glows at night | “Visaria” or “cifaricha” grows in high places | and mountain meadows. It makes flowers similar to a face. Its leaves are red on the border. The leaves | of the stem are forked and the tips of the leaves are red. At night, it glows like | a star. It is helpful against the bite of rabid dogs: crushed and applied on [the wound] it removes that | venom and does the same for the bite of any kind of venomous animal. It must be gathered in May, or June, | or July under the sign of Gemini. The plant and its juice heal all wounds in five hours. | Some herbals say that it is a kind of the lesser "lucia" plant because it glows at night. It is taken | inside a white scarf, because it has many virtues.

Since the manuscript includes several illustrations that appear to have been copied from manuscripts belonging to the “alchemical herbals” tradition (e.g. the collection of Lunarie at p.34), the expression "alchunj erbolarij" at the end is likely to refer to the alchemical herbals, that discussed an "Erba Lucea" or "Lucia", usually represented with fish-like roots.

A completely different, but still anthropomorphic, Lucia Minor appears in Paris, Bibl. Sainte-Geneviève, ms. 3369, f18r. The Vermont herbal presents a similar illustration at p.52.

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