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Question regarding French herbal medicine

 
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Historically, France was a great empire and a center of horticulture and gardening. But, I can find no tradition of French herbalism. I am sure there must have been, and it was likely very advanced. But the only French herb books I can find are by Maurice Messegue circa 1970. Does anyone know of French herbals written pre-1900 and preferably much older? If not, would anyone know a French herbalist who could point me in the right direction? This is a big gap in my knowledge... I have the herbals of ancient Greece and the Roman tradition, the monastic, usually Germanic herbalists, my friend in Ukraine is researching Slavic herbalism... China and India are easy to find... the Arab herbals are well documented. I have the major English herbalists and the early Americans... I can find Mexican herbals and such... definitely Native American. I have Irish herbals... even a good Swedish one... France is conspicuous by absence.
 
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You could try The Grete Herball, which is available from Gutenberg as a section of a larger work. You'll be interested in Chapter II. The Grete Herball is a translation into English of Le Grant Herbier, which is the first major herbal published in France (1486, author unknown).You can view the woodcut images in the book from The Historical Medical Library. I have not been able to find a text of the French version, but you might if you read French.

That is the only book that I was able to find, though -- and I had to dig through perhaps 30 - 40 English texts before I found it, which seems really strange. I think there might be a couple things going on, besides the propensity for French works to be published in French, which I don't read.

Up until 2016 you could have tried Place de Clichy Herboristerie, which is (or was) a French herb shop which opened in France in 1880. It is currently illegal to practice herbal medicine without registering with the Pharmaceutical Society, and the owners, although having doctorates in Pharmacy, were placed under injunction, fined and potentially faced jail time. I wasn't able to find a good source in English but here is article from Le Parisien in case it interests you (the translation from Google isn't perfect but it gives the idea). Just thought it could be related to your difficulty.

The other issue is that it might be difficult, before the 15th century, to separate "French" herbalism from "Latin" herbalism, at least from University educated pharmaceutical practitioners. French is much closer to Latin than English is, and I seem to recall (though I have no source) that Latin remained the primary written language of the University there much longer than it did in England. Also, because of the propensity for authors to plagiarize massive sections of other author's works, there probably isn't as much difference between Roman/Italian and French herbalism as you might hope or expect. In fact, more than half of Le Grant Herbier is lifted from an older work, Circa Instans, an Italian work, a practice which was basically ubiquitous during the Middle Ages. Not to say that there isn't a uniquely French folk tradition of herbalism, but you're unlikely to find that in books, especially published 1800 or earlier, because those traditions tend toward oral dissemination rather than publication.
 
Judson Carroll
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N Broussard wrote:You could try The Grete Herball, which is available from Gutenberg as a section of a larger work. You'll be interested in Chapter II. The Grete Herball is a translation into English of Le Grant Herbier, which is the first major herbal published in France (1486, author unknown).You can view the woodcut images in the book from The Historical Medical Library. I have not been able to find a text of the French version, but you might if you read French.

That is the only book that I was able to find, though -- and I had to dig through perhaps 30 - 40 English texts before I found it, which seems really strange. I think there might be a couple things going on, besides the propensity for French works to be published in French, which I don't read.

Up until 2016 you could have tried Place de Clichy Herboristerie, which is (or was) a French herb shop which opened in France in 1880. It is currently illegal to practice herbal medicine without registering with the Pharmaceutical Society, and the owners, although having doctorates in Pharmacy, were placed under injunction, fined and potentially faced jail time. I wasn't able to find a good source in English but here is article from Le Parisien in case it interests you (the translation from Google isn't perfect but it gives the idea). Just thought it could be related to your difficulty.

The other issue is that it might be difficult, before the 15th century, to separate "French" herbalism from "Latin" herbalism, at least from University educated pharmaceutical practitioners. French is much closer to Latin than English is, and I seem to recall (though I have no source) that Latin remained the primary written language of the University there much longer than it did in England. Also, because of the propensity for authors to plagiarize massive sections of other author's works, there probably isn't as much difference between Roman/Italian and French herbalism as you might hope or expect. In fact, more than half of Le Grant Herbier is lifted from an older work, Circa Instans, an Italian work, a practice which was basically ubiquitous during the Middle Ages. Not to say that there isn't a uniquely French folk tradition of herbalism, but you're unlikely to find that in books, especially published 1800 or earlier, because those traditions tend toward oral dissemination rather than publication.




Thanks - that is great info!
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