This frontispiece of a 14-volume unpublished French manuscript in the Natural History Museum, Paris dated to the first half of the 18th century (brought to light by Kapil Raj in "Relocating Modern Science") on the medicinal plants of Eastern India illustrate the myriad sources Europeans relied on for compiling documents on Indian medical and botanical knowledge. The document was a 30-year project of the French physician Nicolas L'Empereur. The image shows a European on the right of the image, possibly the compiler of the work, next a scholar physician holding a palm leaf manuscript, an illustrator, documentor and a woman plant collector (as suggested by the basket the woman is holding). Even in the rare European documents of Indian medical knowledge where indigenous sources are acknowledged, women are seldom included; one rare example is Garcia Orta's references to his house maid procuring medicinal plants for him in his "Colloquies….," published in 1565. All over India, women from all levels of Indian society were skilled healers and almost exclusively dealt with diseases of women and children, and gynecology and childbirth. Even today in rural communities all over India, mothers and grandmothers with knowledge of regional medicinal plants and therapies are the first line of defense for dealing with family illnesses. And that tradition has crossed over to the practice of biomedicine; significant percentages of biomedical practitioners in India are women.


  • Title: Frontispiece, Jardin de Lorixa Manuscript
  • Date Created: Circa 1725
  • Physical Dimensions: 27.9 x 28.5 cm
  • Subject Keywords: Dr. Anna Spudich, India Spice Trade
  • Original Source: Bibliotheque Centrale, Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris
  • Rights: Bibliotheque Centrale, Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris
  • Medium: hand colored on paper
  • Bibliography: Frontispiece, Jardin de Lorixa Manuscript, late 17th Century, Museum National d’ Histoire Naturelle, Paris. (First reported by Kail Raj in “Relocating Modern Science” 2007 Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.)

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