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Re: VMs: Viola tricolor


I looked at the wild pansies in my garden, and at a couple of reference books on wild flowers.

The image on f9v is hopelessly wrong for a pansy.

The leaf shapes are wrong, the nodal stalkless leaflets are not shown, the flower stems should not have any leaves at all, the sequential arrangement of flower stems off the main stem is not shown, the flowers are incorrect (upsidedown but also distorted), the emergence of multiple stems from the base is not shown.

I didn't pull mine out of the ground - but the root looks implausible.

It is just too wrong. It may be reminiscent of a pansy, but that's about it.

Like so much about the MS it encourages interpretation; but knowledge of plants suggests that the interpretable images are way off the mark in terms of realism. And, as I pointed out on this list before, wrong identification could be life threatening - so why would anyone purposefully produce poor drawings? The medicinal properties of wild flowers have been known for many centuries, and would have been widely known in the 15th C, say.

I still suspect it is the case that the drawings are bad because the artist was incompetent and did not care about veracity because it did not matter. Plausibility was all that mattered - and that we seem to have in spades (hence the wild/wide/multifarious interpretations we all put on it).



On 24 May 2004, at 05:18, Jorge Stolfi wrote:

Dana Scott writes:

It seems that there are varying degrees of cryptobotony involved
with the plants. The plant drawing in f09v is clearly viola
tricolor or a very close variation. What is interesting about the
plant is the positioning of the flowers which appear to be turned
upside down, suggesting that the plant was drawn from a collected

The identification of Viola tricolor (hartsease, wild pansy, love-lies-bleeding, herb trinity) seems pretty strong, not only because of the distinctive flowers but chiefly because of the very characteristic change in the shapes of the leaves, from bottom to top:

  "The lower leaves are almost round, the upper ones oval and coarsely
  to sparsely toothed at the edges."

So why are the flowers upside down? Here are some theories:

1) sloppy artist.
2) drawn from memory.
3) plant and flowers sketched separately; er, which way was up?
4) the flowers had fallen off the dried specimen.
5) flowers were bought from druggist, unflowered plant was drawn from wild.
6) "hoc est the rare /topsy-turvy pansy/, luckier than a 4-leaf clover."

As for (3), keep in mind that some "herbal" drawings are clean copies
of sketches found in the "pharma" section, completed with apparently
invented details. Unfortunately no Viola sketches have been identified

All the best,

Jorge Stolfi
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Dr William Edmondson
School of Computer Science
University of Birmingham
Edgbaston B15 2TT

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