Mandrake plant, 18th-century illustration. The mandrake (Mandragora officinarum) contains hallucinogenic tropane alkaloids, and has medicinal value in relieving pain. It has a wrinkled tap root that bifurcates to resemble a human figure, and was used in sympathetic magic for many centuries. It was believed to be 'alive' in an animal sense. If it was pulled up its scream was said to kill the collector. This illustration of mandrake flowers and fruits is of a specimen from the Paris Royal Botanic Garden. The engraving is by Stumpf from 'Dictionarium, Historicum, Criticum, Chronologicum, Geographicum, Biblicum, Latinis Litteris traditum', the Latin translation of Augustin Calmet's 1720 dictionary translated by Giovanni Domenico Mansi circa 1725. Later colour added.
July 24th, 2016
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