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Documentary heritage

Memory of the World  
Photo: © Austrian National Library

Vienna Dioscurides Manuscript
Austrian National Library, inscription 1997

The Vienna Dioscurides Manuscript is a masterpiece book art from late antiquity that has passed down botanical and pharmacological knowledge from previous eras. The richly illustrated book of medicinal plants was produced on behalf of the Roman aristocrat Juliana Anicia at the start of the 6th century.  The prominent patron was immortalised in a presentation miniature, in which she was flanked by the allegorical personifications of charity and knowledge.

Numerous reproductions of the compiled manuscript written in Greek spread the passed-down knowledge of medicinal plants across all of Europe.  During the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and also later centuries, the codex served as a medical reference work. The Vienna Dioscurides Manuscript has thus gone on to influence the long-term advancement of western lore of medicinal plants. Its importance is also proven by the fact that in 1406, the notary and academic Johannes Chortasmenos arranged for the manuscript to be extensively restored and newly bound, almost one thousand years after the manuscript was produced.

© Austrian National Library
© Austrian National Library

Global significance

The Vienna Dioscurides provides knowledge of sciences during antiquity and of Early Byzantine art and culture. The compiled manuscript is the foundation for a Europe-wide dissemination of ancient expertise in the medical application of medicinal plants.

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