Euphrasy and rue.

We might imagine Darwin’s first quick sketch of the tree of life from 1837 in his tiny (17x 9.7cm) Notebook B. Or we could picture the luxuriously illuminated branches and nodes which connected the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman II (1642-1691) with Adam, composed after his life was spent confined in the lapis lazuli and cerulean-tiled kafes in Topkapi Palace, with its solitary view to the filled pool below the courtyard, and the box-elder garden beyond, screening the distant Bosphorus with a wall of deep green leaves. The Arbor Sapientiae and inkwork trees of consanguinity remain untouched in the autumnal vellum leaves of many codices, and need to be discussed, along with graphs of every sort that branch.

But sometimes, the branching illustration merely shows the stems and blossoms of something that once grew wild on the lower alpine slopes of Trentino or Südtirol. The image above is from folio 9v of an herbal manuscript composed in Northern Italy (perhaps the Veneto), over the course of several decades in the fifteenth century (University of Pennsylvania, ljs 419). Although the flowering plant was not identified in the bibliographic notice, it is obviously Euphrasia rostkoviana, or Eyebright: even if the manuscript marks a transition between pictorial models offered by Medieval precedents like Ps.-Apuleius and a more naturalistic mode of illustration, the delicate gold-and-white blossoms are quite visible. From my perspective, they are superior to the monochromatic woodcuts of Hans Weiditz, and those that appear in the monumental Historia Stirpium comentarii insignes of Leonhard Fuchs (compare p.245 of the 1542 Basel edition). But woodcuts could be colored by hand. And still, we have much to see.