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Toad bezoar, 'Hortus Sanitatis' (1491)

Toad bezoar, 'Hortus Sanitatis' (1491)

C028/9484

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Credit

PAUL D STEWART / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY PAUL D STEWART / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption

Toad bezoar, 'Hortus Sanitatis' (1491). Woodblock illustration of toad bezoar from Ortus (Hortus) Sanitatis, translated from the Latin as 'Garden of Health'. This illustration shows an apothecary removing a bezoar from a large toad's 'third eye'. Toad stones or 'crapandias' were thought to be cure-alls against poison. Shakespeare in 'As You Like It' (Act II, scene 1) later wrote 'Sweet are the uses of adversity, Which like the toad, ugly and venomous, Wears yet a precious jewel in his head.' The word bezoar, which covers such stones from various animals, comes from the Persian word for 'antidote'. The Hortus was the first printed natural history encyclopaedia and was published by Jacob Meydenbach in Mainz, Germany in 1491. He describes plants and animals (both real and mythical) together with minerals and various trades, with their medicinal value and method of preparation.

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