Volume 6, Issue 1, Spring 2017
Gardens as Laboratories. The History of Botany through the History of Gardens
María M. Carrión
Art, Science, and Preservation in the Sixteenth-Century Herbarium from the Hurtado de Mendoza Collection in El Escorial
The interactive correspondence of art, science, and preservation supports the composition of a four-volume anonymous herbarium originally belonging first to the Venetian library of Ambassador Hurtado de Mendoza, and later endowed to the Royal Library of the Monastery-Palace of El Escorial. This planted knowledge consisted of artistic and scientific practices (composition, writing, calligraphy, naming, drying, pressing, cataloguing, relating to health properties, and so on) to preserve not only the plants dried and glued to recycled paper, but the association of those plants, with names, stories, and contexts in ways that attest to the development of natural history and philosophy in sixteenth-century Italy and Spain. This article describes and analyzes the composition of the Hurtado herbarium, its provenance, and its place in the context of early modern European naturalism and botany. Finally, it considers problems of reading this collection, and possible solutions to better understand the herbarium in El Escorial as another piece of this network of dissemination of ethnobotanical knowledge in early modern Europe.