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Cortusi’s L’horto de i semplici di Padoua 1591, translation and exercise-book layout of the Botanical Garden of Padua.

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Translation and comments about the first catalogue of the Hortus of Padua by Cortusi’s L’horto de i semplici di Padoua 1591. Dr. Walter van Rijn and translation by Francesca Barison, Ilaria Calonego, Anna Tarzariol and Walter van Rijn. Pre-published copy, December 2019 Research supported by a bursary from a-n The Artists Information Company.
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Hortus Botanicus Catalogue of Cortusi 1591
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Hortus Botanicus Catalogue of Cortusi 1591: L’horto de i semplici di
Padoua, translation and layout.
Dr. Walter van Rijn, translation by Francesca Barison, Ilaria Calonego, Anna Tarzariol and
Walter van Rijn.
Pre-published copy, December 2019
Research supported by a bursary from a-n The Artists Information Company
Image: Cortusi, L’Horto de i semplici di Padova, Padua 1591. Title Page (Copy held at the Biblioteca Orto
Botanico) Photograph: the author.
Hortus Botanicus Catalogue of Cortusi 1591
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Introduction
The early botanic gardens were among the first places to catalogue and research new plants and
animals. European explorers of new trade routes and territories brought back a large number of new
species, which led to a rethink about what people knew about the world. To be able to make sense of
it all, or to impose some order on the wide variation of the expanding natural world, a classification
system needed to be created. It was the Universities who initiated botanic gardens as places to
research and teach a new understanding of the world, not only from books but from life itself. The
study and categorisation of plants and their medicinal properties led to new science, Botany. The
gathering and exhibiting at the Hortus of new and otherworldly specimens of animals, plants and
minerals led to the development of natural history museums.
My research aims to investigate early practices of collecting and cataloging as exemplified by the 16th
and 17th century botanic gardens and libraries of Padua (IT) and Leiden (NL). I am particularly
interested in the inter-relationships between catalogues, herbals, herbaria and botanic gardens because
they show various ways in which objects have been represented, referred to, cataloged and placed
within a larger collection. The early scientists developed not only the Hortus as site to experiment but
also printed catalogues that functioned as pedagogic aid, and as cataloging aid for the collection.
It is relevant for my artist’s practice because I often use archives and databases as part of my art work.
From these collections I create art work that explores transformations between text, image and
objects. All together these linked entities form a network that is dispersed and flows between
expositions, publications and archives. See for example the project ‘Unconsumable Global Luxury
Dispersion’1 exhibited at John Hansard Gallery Southampton UK.
Another point of interest is a history of science and environmental issues. I am drawn to the 16th
century because the revolution in science and society that took place then was linked to discovering
new worlds and an expanding world view. The shadow side of the West’s exploration was and is an
ongoing exploitation of people and their environments. As a result, our world today is shrinking. In
the 16th century scientists made lists full of known and newly discovered species. Today the growing
lists are of disappearing environments and species becoming extinct2. The research will lead to
creating a new art installation with digital and physical objects, that draws on the above mentioned
two key world views, expansion and contraction.
While searching for information at the University Library Leiden I came across Kruidenier aan de
Amstel3, a book about the Hortus of Amsterdam and its catalogue from Snippendaal 1646. A very
inspiring book because not only has it extensive contextual information on the Medical profession in
the 17th century, it also contains a reproduction of the 1646 catalogue and a translation of the Latin
texts to Dutch. Here I realised the value of these translations because there are valuable pieces of
information about the Hortus from a first hand source. To my surprise, the Italian and Latin texts from
Hortus Botanicus Catalogue of Cortusi 1591
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the first catalogues of Leiden and Padua have not been translated, or made available in English. I
cannot thank the Biblioteca Orto Botanico enough for their assistance and Francesca Barison, Ilaria
Calonego, Anna Tarzariol in particular for their translations. A translation of Paaw’s Hortus Publicus
Academiæ Lugduno-Batavæ 1601 is a work in progress. Any assistance is greatly appreciated. When
finalised, I will make these translations public with a Creative Commons licence so that other
researchers can use them.
From the original Snippendaal catalogue from 16464 are only two copies known to exist, according to
Bouman.5 One copy is held by the British Library. Searching the British Library I came across another
catalogue with a ‘exercise-book’ layout, similar to the one from Leiden and Padua. At a later stage I
will compare the layout of these three catalogues.
Hortus Botanicus Catalogue of Cortusi 1591
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Translation in English
Translation by Francesca Barison, Ilaria Calonego, Anna Tarzariol and Walter van Rijn.
Original:
Cortusi, Giacomo Antonio, L’horto de i semplici di Padoua, oue si vede primieramente la forma di
tutta la pianta con le sue misure: & indi i suoi partimenti distinti per numeri in ciascuna arella,
intagliato in rame. Opera che serue mirabilmente alla memoria de gli studiosi. Venezia, Girolamo
Porro, 1591, [72] carte, [5] carte di tavole ripiegate: illustrato ; 8°. Biblioteca dell'Orto Botanico -
PUV46-H.H.P.11
Title: The garden of semplici [pharmaceuticals] of Padova, where you can see for the first time the
shape of the whole garden with all its measurements and its areas which are differentiated by numbers
presented in every flowerbed. Engraved in copper. This work is primarily for the student’s memory.
A I STUDIOSI LETTORI
To the diligent readers
Having seen and contemplated the beautiful and wonderful structure of the Horto dei Semplici in
Padua many times, I wanted to draw a small layout [or book], more for my own interest than for the
idea of engraving it on copper and printing it. 6
Anyway, the pressure of friends, who never stopped encouraging me to make it available to scholars
and for universal use and benefit, persuaded me to publish it in any shape or form. It is true, though,
that I wish I could have done it in a less imperfect way, in a completed form which I hope to see very
soon, since the four main areas (that one could call four gardens) are not as perfect as I planned them.
So that, besides the four main areas that now have more or less five hundred flowerbeds, once the
other areas are arranged near the circumference, another five hundred flowerbeds will be added,
which will bring not only a double benefit but also a wonderful beauty and decoration in all the
Garden.
But here in addition, there is still a fountain missing which will be the centre of the garden. Moreover,
above the four pillars that you can already see built in the middle on the four corners of the main
areas, there is going to be a Loggia in which more than a thousand water buckets will be stored and so
it is possible to easily irrigate the entire garden thanks to secret and artificial ways. In order to make it
more beautiful four amazing statues in marble will be put above the recesses or the capitals of said
pillars: an Aesculapius, a Hippocrates, a Mithridates and a Galen. Then above the four corners of the
loggia other four figures: a Circe, an Artemis, a Medea and a Helen. On the sides of the loggia another
four: an Apollo, a Mercury, a Janus and a Pan, at the top of the loggia's dome there will be a Minerva.
Hortus Botanicus Catalogue of Cortusi 1591
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Additionally, the recesses that are visible from all the sides of the four doors will be decorated with
beautiful and mysterious figures.
But what is both useful and beautiful, outside the wall that surrounds the garden, will be the rooms
built in a position visible from both sides of the door near the road through which one can enter the
garden. These rooms and apartments will have several uses relevant to the medical subject, for
example laboratories (foundry and distillery) and so on.
In the other rooms there will be persevered: minerals, stones and jewels. In other rooms fishes, sea
animals and all the wonderful creatures that the sea sends us: salts, sponges, corals and similar. Other
rooms will show terrestrial animals, or flying animals that will be dried out and well preserved.
Thanks to this diverse collection a museum will be created for the benefit of all the scholars of this
rare subject. In this small theatre, a kind of small world, all the wonderful creations of nature will be
shown.
Furthermore to the outstanding garden with a beautiful field surrounded by water, there will be, near
the South door, a little forest with the most beautiful trees that this site must have: not only trees of
this region but also foreign trees form across the sea and across the mountain. From the East side
there will be a similar little forest with myrtles, lentisco trees, junipers, cedars, laurels and so many
other trees all suitable with the temperature of that area. The North side will follow the same concept,
as much as this side can hold because here there is the residence of the President.
All of these things and many others I already have heard from the illustrious President Giacomo
Antonio Cortusi, and I hope to see them realised.
Unfortunately, I could not show in the plan (as I hoped to) all the things listed above. But, I wanted at
least to write them down as a consolation to all the scholars, whilst drawing what there actually is.
One cannot be quiet in front of the illustrious and eminent reformer of the Study: Francesco Prioli
respectable attorney of San Marco, Leonardo Donato cavalier and famous orator and Zaccaria
Contarini a very important and upright senator. Under their wish this work was decided to complete.
To these men all the scholars of this subject should be grateful for another and not less important
matter: the fact that they chose voluntarily Mr. Cortusi, a gentleman with, as everyone knows, an
enormous knowledge in this subject and then they made him President of this Garden.
To perfect the Garden it is in a continuous state of maintenance and it is enriched with noble and
foreign plants under the control and the protection of the illustrious Rector of the university of Padua
Giovanni Soranzo, cavalier and podestà and Federico Sanuto Capitanio, whom with a great generosity
helped this project which I hope to see complete very soon.
Meanwhile, it gives me comfort to know that my small effort can be in any way helpful to the
scholars of this beautiful subject. Besides the effort of writing this work, I am yearning to do
something even more important for them whenever it is possible. I pray to God that you will complete
your studies and I plead to your good grace.
Hortus Botanicus Catalogue of Cortusi 1591
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DICHARATIONE DELL’OPERA
Declaration of the piece.
For the use of the scholars
It is necessary to know that the number you can see on the plan of every area of the garden indicate
particular and different flowerbeds, in which you can find the Semplici. Therefore, if you want to
write in the book about some Semplice first you have to see in which flowerbed it is planted and then,
after having received confirmation from the illustrious President, you can write the name in the
Indice 7 index of the area at the corresponding number of the respective flowerbed.
Text under the main map:
A I BENIGNI LETTORI
To the kind readers
I wish to inform you the wise readers that the Index of the Garden’s plants was formed by an expert
gentleman of this subject. He has considered not only the plants of the Garden but also the ones in the
numerous vases. During the seminar of the illustrious President Cortusi, these plants will be
transferred in a convenient time in this Garden to amplify the universal benefit, with many other
plants from Crete or India that have already arrived here but are not on the index.
Moreover, the words Spaldi, Spalti, Quadri or appartamenti are used for the shape and the height of
the very high wooden shutters which are similar to those of a patio; to the ground between the high
and short wall of the circumference and the space from an espalier of laurel and another similar to a
theatre. 8
It is true that we originally did so because we didn't know which words were more adequate or with
which words to explain and define this artifice. Until someone more knowledgeable on this subject
will kindly inform us about how we should name them in the second reprint and with which more
adequate words we should speak about the said apartments that are artificial and less common, very
rare and very unique. Additionally, it is said that in the centre or, even better, in the middle of the
flowerbeds that contain a wide range of the plants there are trees or shrubs, fruttici or sottofrutttici,
[they are smaller shrubs] like cypress, anagiri, macaleb, plane trees, pines, spruces, lotus, osiacante,
piracante, hollies, laurels also called Trebisonda's dates, cytisus and many more as many as the
flowerbeds that have to be counted in this manner: in the first quarter on the left side of the entrance
141 flowerbeds, in the second 125, in the third 121 and in the fourth 117 flowerbeds which together
will compose the said four main areas of 504 flowerbeds.
Hortus Botanicus Catalogue of Cortusi 1591
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Comments
The fist section A I STUDIOSI LETTORI makes clear that at the time of writing or publishing
(1591) the Hortus is still in a stage of development. The writer describes what is planned for the future
and he sets out a very ambitious plan that includes a doubling of the plant beds, thirteen marble
statues, a fountain and irrigation system, a building for medical laboratories and, what is for me most
interesting, a museo showing minerals, preserved plants and animals. For the surrounding area the
plan is to plant many local and foreign trees.
That the University wanted a building for medical functions makes sense, because the Hortus was
conceived as a kind of open air laboratory for (medical) students. The University of Padova also
constructed an Anatomical Theatre in 1595. The addition of a museo, a novel kind of display because
in the 16th century a natural history museum did not yet exist, places the Hortus in a wider
philosophical context. The writer says of this museo: “In this small theatre, a kind of small world, all
the wonderful creations of nature will be shown.” [E in quest piccolo teatro, quasi un piccolo mondo,
ci sarà spettacolo di tutte le meraviglie della natura.”].
For me it is a telling line, pointing to an idea that the Hortus is at the centre of a display of the whole
world as it was available there and then. A kind of ‘Theatre of Nature’ with nature on show in a
concentrated form, for everyone to see, explore, and learn from.
It will be very interesting to place the idea for this museo in the context of a 16th century treatise on
systematic collecting and displaying by Quiccheberg Inscriptiones vel tituli theatri amplissimi (1565)9
and known cabinets of curiosities or wunderkammer like the engraving in Ferrante Imperato's
Dell'Historia Naturale (Naples 1599).10
Another question is, what happened to the idea of the museo, did it ever materialise?
In DICHARATIONE DELL’OPERA the writer explains how to use the layout of the blank boxes in
the book. I am very interested in the ‘exercise-book’ idea of the layout. So far, I have not come across
earlier versions of this kind of layout. The layout is a combination of a ground plan with numbers,
pages with numbered blank boxes to be filled in with information referring to the items on the map
and an index of all the plants, or the items in the collection.
It is an ingenious layout design that allows a multi-functional use. Firstly, the ‘exercise-book’ design
is a learning aid for students to learn the names and details of the plants. Secondly, as the plant
collection is in constant flux with different placements within the garden, arrival of new plants and
some specimens disappearing, this work-book can be used to catalogue the garden regularly and
record the changes over time. The name and position of each item is logged making it possible to find
each item. Thirdly, the index can be used to communicate with plant specialists and other gardens to
compare collections, exchange or enlarge the collection.
Where did the ‘exercise-book’ layout come from? Elsa Cappelletti and Andrea Ubrizsy Savoia show
Hortus Botanicus Catalogue of Cortusi 1591
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in Didactics in a botanic garden that the ‘exercise-book’ layout is preceded by ground plans of the
garden with plant names written directly in the plant beds.11 Ground plans with plant names written in
is of course even today used as a way to communicate a garden design. Andrea Ubrizsy Savoia also
suggested to me that illustrations of architectural spaces and bodies with numbers or tables with
numbers can be found in earlier books dealing with Ars Memoriae or the Art of Memory. Still, no
equivalent examples of earlier publications with an ‘exercise-book’ layout. In the same article
Cappelletti and Savoia name the catalogue ‘Hortus Messanensis’ by Pietro Castelli (1640) as using the
same didactic method. It includes ground plans with numbered plots and plant list. However, looking
at a digitalised version online the publication doesn’t seem to include pages with blank boxes to be
filled in.
Cappelletti and Savoia also describe the first catalogue of the Hortus in Leiden (NL) by P. Paaw
printed in 1601 as an example of a publication that has followed the Cortusi catalogue and used the
‘exercise-book’ layout.12 This is the catalogue I have consulted in the Leiden University Library and
they hold several copies from different years, all with the plant names written in. I will describe this
catalogue later and compare it with a catalogue I recently found. The British Library holds another
Hortus Catalogue from a Hortus established by a Dutch university that uses the ‘exercise-book’
layout. Hortus Academicus Ultrajectinus, printed in 1650 by the University of Utrecht (NL).13 This
copy includes a numbered ground plan, pages with blank boxes to be filled in and an alphabetic index.
A I BENIGNI LETTORI
The text under the main ground plan is a description of the plan and at the same time the author is
questioning his use of the words “Spaldi, Spalti, Quadri or appartamenti” for the four main quarters
or squares in the garden. It reflects the novelty of creating the first catalogue for one of the first Horto
dei Semplici. Each quarter or Quadro is subdivided in plant beds he calls Areole. As a result, each
plant can then be catalogued with a location: Spaldo 1, Areole 141, etc.
I will come back to these terms when I describe the two Dutch catalogues because they use a similar
but slightly different system and terms. Below I will show some images of the Cortusi catalogue with
key elements of its ‘exercise-book’ layout.
Hortus Botanicus Catalogue of Cortusi 1591
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Images exercise book layout
Photographs showing the main characteristics of an ‘exercise-book’ layout. A numbered ground plan,
pages with blank boxes to be filled in and an index listing all the species of plants.
Fig 1. Cortusi, L’horto de i semplici di Padova, Padua 1591.
The main ground-plan with text. The plan gives an overview of the four main squares, each divided into
approximately 125 plant beds (Areole) and each square has a different pattern. The scale of the plan is too small
to include more detail, therefore the catalogue contains four plans of the individual squares (Spaldo or Quadro).
(Copy held at the Biblioteca Orto Botanico, image from digitised version https://phaidra.cab.unipd.it/o:415920 )
Hortus Botanicus Catalogue of Cortusi 1591
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Fig 2. Cortusi, L’horto de i semplici di Padova, Padua 1591.
Spaldo Primo map. One of four detailed maps in the catalogue, which shows the layout and numbering of the
plant beds. Because the Hortus is designed with ample space, the intricate pattern of paths and plant beds allow
the student to walk around and see each plant bed from all directions. Looking at the numbering strategy of the
Spaldo: it starts at the centre (which I believe is a fountain or pool for water plants) and spirals anti-clockwise
out ending at one of the steps of the platform. Strangely, the numbering strategy of the other three Squares is
different. They also start at the centre but spiral clock-wise out. That must have been confusing.
(Copy held at the Biblioteca Orto Botanico, image from digitised version https://phaidra.cab.unipd.it/o:415920 )
Hortus Botanicus Catalogue of Cortusi 1591
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Fig 3. Cortusi, L’horto de i semplici di Padova, Padua 1591.
Layout with blank boxes relating to Spaldo Primo. Spaldo is sometimes spelt ‘Spalto and this occurs for each
Spaldo at the same place. From this I can assume that the printer used a same template layout throughout the
book so that only the first line text ‘Primo needed to be changed into ‘Secondo’, etc. Also each Spaldo plan has
a different total of Areole (141, 125, 121 and 121 see A I BENIGNI LETTORI) but because the layout is a
template each Spaldo has the same number of pages and blank boxes for the Areole, 144. See also photo below.
(Copy held at the Biblioteca Orto Botanico, image from digitised version https://phaidra.cab.unipd.it/o:415920 )
Hortus Botanicus Catalogue of Cortusi 1591
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Fig 4. Cortusi, L’horto de i semplici di Padova, Padua 1591. Spaldo Terzo numbered map and one page layout
with boxes filled in by hand. Each box refers to one plant bed. (Copy held at the Biblioteca Civica Padua,
photograph by the author)
Hortus Botanicus Catalogue of Cortusi 1591
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Fig 5. Cortusi, L’horto de i semplici di Padova, Padua 1591. Spaldo Quarto blank boxes also 144 in total and
Index. The list of plants is dated and alphabetical. (Copy held at the Biblioteca Civica Padua, photograph by the
author.)
Hortus Botanicus Catalogue of Cortusi 1591
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Fig 6. Cortusi, L’horto de i semplici di Padova, Padua 1591.
An example of the plant-list layout. It has the same letter type but in a smaller font than the book’s foreword.
(Copy held at the Biblioteca Orto Botanico, image from digitised version https://phaidra.cab.unipd.it/o:415920 )
1 Part of the exhibition ‘Time After Time’,2018 with Caroline Bergvall, Victor Burgin, Hamad Butt, John
Latham, Charlotte Posenenske, and Walter van Rijn. https://waltervanrijn.art/2018/08/23/exhibition-time-after-
time-john-hansard-gallery/
2 See for instance the The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species.
https://www.iucnredlist.org/
3 Ferry Bouman, Bob Baljet, Erik Zevenhuizen, and Johannes Snippendaal, eds. Kruidenier Aan De Amstel : De
Amsterdamse Hortus Volgens Johannes Snippendaal, 1646 [in Dutch]. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University
Press, 2007. 9789053569672
4 Snippendalius, Joannes. [Catalogus] Horti Amstelodamensis, Alphabetico Ordine Exhibens Eas, Quibus Is
Instructus Fuit, Atq[E] Quibus Auctior Factusest, Stirpes. Anno 1646. Amstelodami, 1646.
Hortus Botanicus Catalogue of Cortusi 1591
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5 Ferry Bouman, Bob Baljet, Erik Zevenhuizen, and Johannes Snippendaal, eds. Kruidenier Aan De Amstel : De
Amsterdamse Hortus Volgens Johannes Snippendaal, 1646 [in Dutch]. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University
Press, 2007. 9789053569672. p.91.
6 This chapter is unsigned. Most likely the author is Girolamo Porro or Giacomo Antonio Cortusi.
7 ‘Indice’ or index refers here to the blanc boxes in this book. ‘Indice’ is also used as index or list of plants in the
last section of this book.
8 This paragraph is difficult to translate, not knowing how the garden was landscaped at that time. Looking at
the garden plan above the text, the four “Spaldi” are raised above the level of the main paths, like a theatre
stage, and accessed through four small steps. See also comments below.
9 Quiccheberg, Samuel à. Inscriptiones Vel Tituli Theatri Amplissimi / Autore Samuele À Quiccheberg.
Monachii: ex officina Adami Berg, 1565. <http://access.bl.uk/item/viewer/ark:/81055/
vdc_100043269937.0x000001> Quiccheberg also uses the terms “Theatrum, vel museum”.
10 Imperato, Ferrante. Dell'historia Natvrale Di Ferrante Imperato Napolitano Libri Xxviii : Nella Qvale
Ordinatamente Si Tratta Della Diuersa Condition Di Miniere E Pietre : Con Alcune Historie Di Piante &
Animali, Sin'hora Non Date in Luce. In Napoli: Nella Stamparia à Porta Reale, per Costantino Vitale, 1599.
https://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/item/183177
11 Cappelletti, Elsa, and Andrea Ubrizsy Savoia. "Didactics in a Botanic Garden: Garden Plans and Botanical
Education in the ‘Horto Medicinale’ of Padua in the 16th Century." In A Passion for Plants. Materia Medica
and Botany in Scientific Networks from the 16th to the 18th Centuries, edited by Sabine Anagnostou and Florike
Egmond. 75-84. Marburg: University of Marburg, DE, 2012
12 Paaw, Petrus. Hortus Publicus Academiæ Lugduno-Batavæ, Eius Ichnographia, Descriptio, Usus : Addito
Quas Habet Stirpium Numero Et Nominibus. edited by Christophorus Raphelengius Lugduno Bat.: ex officina
Plantiniana, apud Christophorum Raphelengium, Academiæ Lugduno-Bat. Typographum Raphelengius,
Christophorus., 1601.
https://catalogue.leidenuniv.nl/permalink/f/6jdn1r/UBL_ALMA21167405670002711
13 Regius, Henricus. Hortus Academicus Ultrajectinus. Ultrajecti: Typis Theodori ab Ackersdijck & Gisberti à
Zijll, 1650.
http://explore.bl.uk/BLVU1:LSCOP-ALL:BLL01003062173
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Spaldo Quarto blank boxes also 144 in total and Index. The list of plants is dated and alphabetical. (Copy held at the Biblioteca Civica Padua
  • L Cortusi
  • horto De I Semplici Di Padova
Fig 5. Cortusi, L'horto de i semplici di Padova, Padua 1591. Spaldo Quarto blank boxes also 144 in total and Index. The list of plants is dated and alphabetical. (Copy held at the Biblioteca Civica Padua, photograph by the author.)
Catalogus] Horti Amstelodamensis, Alphabetico Ordine Exhibens Eas, Quibus Is Instructus Fuit, Atq[E] Quibus Auctior Factusest, Stirpes. Anno 1646. Amstelodami, 1646. Cortusi's L'horto de i semplici di Padoua 1591
  • Joannes Snippendalius
Snippendalius, Joannes. [Catalogus] Horti Amstelodamensis, Alphabetico Ordine Exhibens Eas, Quibus Is Instructus Fuit, Atq[E] Quibus Auctior Factusest, Stirpes. Anno 1646. Amstelodami, 1646. Cortusi's L'horto de i semplici di Padoua 1591
Sin'hora Non Date in Luce
  • Animali
Animali, Sin'hora Non Date in Luce. In Napoli: Nella Stamparia à Porta Reale, per Costantino Vitale, 1599. https://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/item/183177