The Herbal of Valerius Cordus
Today is the birthday of Valerius Cordus.
Cordus was the author of one of the most influential herbals in history.
In fact, centuries later, the botanist Thomas Archibald Sprague re-published "The Herbal of Valerius Cordus" with his older sister, who he considered to be the best botanist in his botanist family.
After the book was published, Sprague gifted her with a personal and gorgeous bound copy. He had the book dedicated to her in Latin: "M. S. Sprague praeceptrici olim hodie collaboratrici d.d. T. A. Sprague" - basically, thanking her for all that she had taught him and collaborated with him.
Valerius Cordus died young, at the age of 29. He had contracted malaria.
In 1544, Valerius had spent the summer botanizing in Italy with two French naturalists. At some point, he had waded into marshes in search of new plants. When he became sick a short time later, his friends brought him to Rome, and then, they continued on to Naples. When they returned for him, they found their friend, Valerius, had died.
We owe a debt of gratitude to the Swiss botanist Konrad Gesner who had the sense to collect Cordus' prolific writings and preserve and publish them.
One expert once said,
"There was Theophrastus; there was nothing for 1,800 years; then there was Cordus."
The genus Cordia is named in honor of Valerius Cordus.
Cordia's are in the borage family, and many cordias have fragrant, showy flowers. Some cordias also produce edible fruits with strange and fascinating names like clammy cherries, blue berries, sebesten, or snotty gobbles.