Pietro Andrea Mattioli's Commentarii in sex libros Pedacii Dioscoridis de medica materia, is an herbal that established its creator as an international authority on specimens that would revolutionize European medicine, culture, and trade.
This spread depicts “Limonium,” or sea lavender, a coastal plant also common to inland marshes. Its
leaves are produced in a dense basal rosette, with thin flowering stems. The spread is from one of two existing copies of the 1565 edition of the work that feature highlighted illustrations in silver and gold, an innovation that Mattioli described as "the most rare thing of this kind that has ever been seen."
As Mattioli’s fame rose in Prague in the 1560s, he gained notoriety for his vicious retaliation
against colleagues who questioned his classifications. Esteemed botanists Luigi Anguillara and
Conrad Gessner were among his targets, and Amatus Lusitanus, a Portugese Jew, was mysteriously
denounced to the Spanish Inquisition after an argument. Historian F.J. Anderson describes an
additional “blemish on Mattioli’s career” in which the botanist performed experiments testing the
poison of monkshood (Aconitum napellus) on condemned prisoners.