1565. · Seville
8vo [13.4 x 9.1 cm], (132) ff., with woodcut border to title page and woodcut initials. Bound in later stiff vellum, title stamped on spine, gift inscription on the front flyleaf to a certain 'Carmen Ballina' dated 1922 (now covered in paper). Only minor wear and rubbing to binding. 'Tassa' price of 51 maravedis entered in manuscript on title page as issued, early signature of a certain 'Henrique Correa' at fol. aiiir, the occasional contemporary annotation in the text, minor occasional dampstaining, very minor occasional marginal worming.
Very rare first edition (1565) – virtually unacquirable for the past half century or more – of the first printed work devoted to the botanical and medicinal discoveries made in the Americas, a treatise which, through its later expansions and numerous translations, would remain "for many years the most important work on the medicinal plants of the New World" (Garrison & Morton). The Dos libros was written by the renowned physician Nicolás Monardes (1493-1588) in Seville, then the center of the Spanish printing industry and the only port from which ships were authorized to sail to and from the New World. Born in 1493, in the very year Columbus returned from his first voyage, Monardes thus both occupied a front row seat for first decades of the 'Columbian Exchange' and was ideally positioned to disseminate his findings to a wider European, indeed global, audience.
Monardes shared much with his contemporary Garcia d'Orta (1501-68), the Portuguese physician stationed in India and famed for his Coloquios dos simples e drogas e consas medicinais da India (Goa, 1563): "Just as d'Orta gave the learned world of the West the first accurate accounts of various Asian medicinal and commercial plants, so did Monardes with those of America … Monardes, like Garcia d'Orta, has a strong claim to be regarded as one of the fathers of the science of pharmacognosy. Both of them compiled what were virtually complete monographs on many important items of our actual materia medica, which were then unknown or only inaccurately known to the Western World (Boxer, pp. 23-24). Even the diffusion of these two authors throughout the learned world of early modern Europe shared a common source in the Latin versions made of them by the Flemish physician and botanist Charles de L'Ecluse [Carolus Clusius] (1526-1609) who published them together for the first time at Antwerp by Plantin in 1574 and afterwards.
Monardes eagerly capitalized on his unique position in Seville to acquire botanical news, specimens and seeds from the New World, cultivating his own garden of American plants and distributing cuttings to correspondents throughout Spain and Europe. In 1553 he established a transatlantic business partnership with a colleague in Tierra Firme, and, over the next three decades, Monardes' three sons and four daughters emigrated to Tierra Firme and New Spain, thus providing him with a network which would prove invaluable in collecting information for the 1565 Dos libros and in expanding the treatise in its 1571 and 1574 editions (published as Segunda Parte and Primera y Segunda y Tercera Partes de la Historia Medicinal). In the Dos libros Monardes describes more than two dozen botanical remedies (sarsaparilla, copal and other aromatic balsams, guaiacum, lignum vitae, etc.), their medicinal applications, native nomenclature, and where they were to be found (Mexico City, Jalisco, Michoacán, Cuba, Santo Domingo, San Juan, Cartagena, Honduras, Peru, Nicaragua). Fascinatingly, he views this specialized information through the broader lens of early American exploration, discussing the voyages of Columbus and Hernán Cortés (Monardes' near contemporary), the spread of New World diseases among the first conquistadors, and assessing the value of America's medicinal riches against her wealth of gold and silver.
In his first printed work, Dialogo llamado pharmacodilosis o declaracion medicinal (Seville, 1536), Monardes noted that he was skeptical of the therapeutic value of plants from the New World, but "his change of heart between 1536 and 1565 about the value of American materia medica was a gradual process and was due to his own experience" (Boxer, p. 22). Monardes "took great care (after about 1536) to examine those [plants] imported and/or transplanted into Spain – a self-imposed task facilitated by the unrivaled position of Seville as the sole entrepôt for Spanish trade with the New World … just as d'Orta cultivated Asian plants in his gardens and orchards at Goa and Bombay, so Monardes had a botanical garden with native and exotic plants at Sevilla" (Boxer, 22).
In addition to Clusius' Latin translation of Monardes (De simplicibus medicamentis ex Occidentli India delatis, 1574 first Latin edition), an English translation appeared in 1577 by John Frampton under the title Joyful newes out of the newe found world. Italian, French and German translations followed, with the work going through 19 editions during Monardes' lifetime and 14 after his death.
In the present 1565 first edition of the Dos libros, Monardes challenged European travelers and residents in the Americas to "'investigate and experiment with the many kinds of medicines that the Indians sell in their markets or Tianguez; it would be a thing of great utility and profit to see and know their properties and to experiment with their varied and great effects, which the Indians make public and manifest through the great experiences they make of them among themselves'" (Monardes quoted from Bleichmar, Visual Voyages, p. 51). But tapping into native knowledge of medicinal matters apparently proved more difficult than Monardes had anticipated: In the 1571 Segunda Parte he notes that the increasing Amerindian hostility to the European presence in the Americas was provoking them to keep their medicinal/botanical practices secret to the point of providing misleading information to colonists seeking local remedies, and consequently his 1565 Dos Libros had in fact become the primary source for Indian medicinal knowledge even among Europeans stationed and living in the Americas among the native populace (see Bleichmar, Visual Voyages, p. 51).
Monardes' other published works include the 1539 De secanda vena in pleuriti inter Grecos et Arabes concordia and his 1540 De rosa et partibus eius. His treatise on the medicinal properties of the bezoar stone is appended to the present Dos libros.
OCLC locates U.S. examples of this 1565 Dos Libros of Monardes at the National Library of Medicine, John Carter Brown, Wisconsin, Hunt Botanical, SMU, and NYPL.
* Alden, European Americana 565/45; Medina BHA 194; JCB, vol. 1, no. 240; Palau 175485; Wellcome 4390; USTC 340089; Garrison & Morton 1817; ; Hunt 106 (1569 ed.); Sabin 49936 (the 2nd ed.); F. Guerra, Nicolás Bautista Monardes; D. Bleichmar, Visual Voyages: Images of Latin American Nature from Columbus to Darwin; J. Jiménez-Castellanos y Calvo-Rubio, Historia medicinal de las cosas… (Seville, Padilla, 1988); D. Bleichmar, "Books, Bodies, and Fields: Sixteenth-Century Transatlantic Encounters with New World Materia Medica," in L. Schiebinger and C. Swan (eds.), Colonial Botany: Science, Commerce, and Politics, pp. 83–99; J. M. López Piñero, "Las 'Nuevas Medicinas' Americanas en la Obra (1565-1574) de Nicolás Monardes," Asclepio, vol. 42, no. 1 (1990), pp. 3-67; A. Barrera, "Local Herbs, Global Medicines: Commerce, Knowledge, and Commodities in Spanish America," in P. Smith and P. Findlen, eds., Merchants and Marvels: Commerce, Science, and Art in Early Modern Europe, pp. 163-81; J. D. Sauer, "Changing Perception and Exploitation of New World Plants in Europe," in F. Chiappelli, ed., First Images of America , vol. 2, pp.-813-32; F. Egmond, The World of Carolus Clusius: Natural History in the Making, 1550-1610; A. Ubrizy and J. Heniger, "Carolus Clusius and American Plants," Taxon, vol. 32, no 3 (1983), pp. 424-35; C. R. Boxer, Two Pioneers of Tropical Medicine: Garcia d'Orta and Nicolás Monardes (Wellcome Lecture Series No. 1, 1963). (Inventory #: 5777)