Crescenzi, Pietro 14th Century

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Crescenzi was born of a good family in Bologna, Italy. He studied logic, natural history, medicine and law in the University of Bologna, and became a lawyer and writer. Tired of law practice he decided to write about agricultural matters. His book entitled Ruralia Commoda contained much information relative to domestic plants and animals. The books is considered to be the best medieval treatise on agriculture (about 1306). It was very popular in continental Europe, was translated into several European languages and it exists in a large number of manuscripts. It was likewise printed many times. The book was composed with the purpose of providing the intelligent farmer with a practical account of all aspects of farming. It included material concerning plant growth, extracted from the work of Albertus Magnus as well as the arrangement of farm buildings and water supply. Among the subjects treated were:

1. Cultivation of cereals, peas and beans.
2. Cultivation of grapes and making of wines.
3. Cultivation of fruit trees, vegetables, medicinal plants and flowers.
4. Care of woods.

His most original writing involved an elaborate presentation of grafting of grapes, trees and the insect larvae destroying plants. He quoted Palladius, Columella, as well as other ancient authorities.


After the 13th Century, descriptive botany and zoology were carried on by herbalists and naturalists who had great breadth of interests. Matthaeus Sylvaticus composed a dictionary of medical recipes entitled Pandectae (1317). He included the results of his personal observations of plants made by traveling in Europe. He kept a collection of domestic and foreign plants in his botanic garden at Salerno, Italy. This was one of the earliest botanic gardens established by lay individuals as opposed to monastery gardens. Botanic gardens associated with medical faculties, began thereupon to appear. The Botanic Garden of Padua was established on 29 June, 1545. The most accurate source on the history of this garden is: Minelli A. (ed.), 1995. L'Orto Botanico di Padova 1545-1995. Marsilio Editori, Venezia, 312 pp. ISBN 88-317-6258-3. The first botanic garden associated to a medical faculty was established in Pisa in 1543-1544. See: Garbari F., Tongiorgi Tomasi L., Tosi A., 1991. Giardino dei Semplici: l'Orto Botanico di Pisa dal XVI al XIX secolo. Pacini Editore, Pisa, 397 pp. ISBN 88-7781-058-0. Of the three key botanists involved in the garden management in the XVI century, only A. Cesalpino is included in the relevant section in Professor Howlett's History of Horticulture. Luca Ghini (1490-1556), founder of the garden, and Giuseppe Casabona (1535?-1595), who introduced many plants from the levant, are not mentioned, and should be investigated by those seeking additional information on this topic.

The most outstanding herbal of this period was that compiled by Benedetto Rinio in Venice in 1410. This herbal was illustrated by 440 magnificent plates by the Venetian artist, Andrea Amadio. This involved 450 domestic and 111 foreign plants. Brief notes included season of collection, part of plant containing the drug, the authorities used and the name of each plant in Latin, Greek, German, Arabic, the various Italian dialects, as well as Slavonic. The purpose was to assist herbalists in gathering correct plants.

At this time Venice was especially noted as the center of the drug trade between East and West. His herbal was the authority in the many apothecary shops as well as the authority in identifying plants.