Mandrakes. Male and Female. Clothed and Naked. (Calmet, 1722)
At Hogwarts the uses of plants and herbs is taught in Herbology. The most memorable lesson is probably the one in which the students first encounter Mandrakes. Renaissance scholars of botany and medicine included reports derived from classical authorities of the magical qualities of mandrake and other plants.
De viribus herbarum. (Odo de Meung, 1498)
The earliest such work in the RBLA is one of the most important and popular general botanical texts of the medieval period. It was written by Odo de Meung, who lived in the Loire area of France towards the end of the eleventh century. The text is based on Pliny, Galen, Dioscorides, and Hippocrates. The RBLA copy appears to be the first illustrated printed edition and contains a large title woodcut of a physician writing in his library and 66 woodcuts of flowers and herbs. Its popularity and longevity has often been ascribed to the use of verse, which allowed doctors and apothecaries more easily to memorise its prescriptions.
Voyages of discovery exposed Renaissance thinkers to a wide range of new and unusual plants and animals. Classical scholars were of course unaware of the existence of these New Worlds. This ignorance shook people's belief in the absolute authority of ancient texts. (Morandi, 1761)