Isatis (1)

From Simon Online
Jump to: navigation, search

Isatis Dyascorides quo infectores utuntur folia habet plantaginis similia sed pinguia et nigriora et virgam amplius cubito longam et cetera, et infra est et agrestis similis supra dicte folia maiora habens similia lactuce virgas multas et divisas et obruffas et foliculos habens cum semine sicut linguam florem mellinum habens et cetera.


Isatis ABC ejp | Isotis f
Dyascorides om. f
plantaginis ABC e | plantagini fj
sed | et j
pinguia AC fj | pinguiora ep | pingriora B
nigriora | minora p
{nigriora} et om. B efj
virgam | virga f
cubito | cubita f
longam | lũgã B | longa f
maiora | maioris f | minora p
{divisas} habens add. B ejp | hʒ add. f
obruffas | obrufas ep
in ‘’om’’. AC
foliculos AC j | foliculo f | foliculis B ep
{foliculos} habens | hʒ f
cum | et j
linguam | liguã j
mellinum | melinum B
{mellinum} habens | hʒ f
et cetera om. f


Isatis, which the dyers use, has leaves similar to plantago {"plantain"}, but thicker and darker, and a wider stalk one cubit long, etc.

{And further down Dyascorides says:} There is also a wild form, similar to the above described, and it has bigger leaves similar to lactuca {"lettuce"}, and it has many divided and reddish stalks and it has small bags with seeds like a tongue and a honey-coloured flower; etc.


Simon's ultimate source is Dioscorides Longobardus, 2, 170, ed. Stadler (1899: 246), De ysatis id est herba bitrea [[1]] - "On woad, which means the glass-like herb".
Dioscorides' translator used the Greek word for "woad" ἰσάτις /isátis/ and gives herba vitrea "glass-like herb" as the Latin equivalent, a paraphrase of the usual Latin name vitrum, meaning originally "glass" but then also "woad", because the glass of the ancients was deep blue.

The Greek original can be found in Dioscorides, 2, 184, 185, ed. Welmann (1906-14: 253, 254) ἰσάτις /isátis/, p. 254 ἰσάτις ἀγρία /isátis agría/ [[2]].

Botanical identification:

The plant is Isatis tinctoria L. [[3]], [[4]] which has been in use since the Neolithic period as a source of blue dye obtained by the fermentation of the yellowing leaves.

The Dioscoridean passage chosen by Simon seems to say that there are two kinds of isatis, the one: quo infectores utuntur {"the dyers use"} and the agrestis {"wild one"}. The most likely explanation is offered by Berendes (1902: 258), i.e. that we are only dealing with different varieties of the same plant, cf. Dioscorides' statement: agrestis similis supra dicte "the wild isatis is similar to the above-mentioned" – i.e. the one used by dyers. Botanical descriptions of the plant often point to the variability of the species.

WilfGunther 02/12/2013

See also: Gaisdo, Isatis (2), Osatis, Aluta (2)

Next entry