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Today’s manuscript is one of the highlights found so far. It is in the Pierpont Morgan Museum Library, and is one of the copies of Dioscorides Pedacius De materia medica… [1]. This manuscript contains several parts besides the Dioscoridean herbarium, one of which is [translated from Greek, 2] ‘On living things’ and is presumed to have been originated in Constantinople; it is now dated ca. 940–960.

On f. 207v of that part, we find pictures of crabs, hermit-crabs in sea shells (Cerithium sp.) and two land snails directed to the right. Of the latter, only the one figured at the right-hand side is complete, the other lacking the head of the animal. The complete one is a dark-brown animal, with two sets of tentacles, two larger and two smaller; the shell is beige tinted, with three darker radial bands, and has nearly five whorls.


The skilfulness of these illustrations, already noted by Theodorides [3], has led Kádár [4] to believe that a Helicigona species has been illustrated here [5]. The text of Dioscorides has later been translated in various other languages [e.g., 6, 7] and mentions both Libya, Sardinia, Sicily and Greek islands. Berendes [7] annotated “Welches die Meer-, Fluss- und Feldschnecken des D. [Dioscorides] sind, dürfte sich bei der Menge der Arten schwer bestimmen lassen”. 

When I showed this picture to Eike Neubert, expert in Mediterranean land snails, he suggested this to be a Tacheocampylaea species from Sardinia. This is now regarded the oldest, identifiable land snail illustration.
I am grateful to my colleague Dr Neubert for sharing his expertise.

[1] PMM, Ms. M.652, 385 ff.
[2] From detailed description of the manuscript, Pierpont Morgan Library BBM0652a.pdf.
[3] Theodorides, J. (1971). Interet scientifique des miniatures zoologiques d’un manuscrit de Matiere medicale de Dioscuride. Acta Biologica Debrecina 7–8: 265–272.
[4] Kádár, Z. (1978). Survivals of Greek zoological illuminations in Byzantine manuscripts: 1–232 + I–X. Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest.
[5] Kádár 1978: p. 56, 61; as “Helix sp. (vermiculata?)” on p. 54. If the latter would be correct, these shells are currently classified as Eobania vermiculata (Müller, 1774).
[6] Cornarius, Janus (1557). De materia medica libri quinque, Jano Cornario,… interprete. Ejusdem Jani Cornarii emblemata singulis capitibus adjecta. Dioscoridae de bestiis venenum ejaculantibus et lethalibus medicamentis, libri II, eodem Jano Cornario interprete. Ejusdem Jani Cornarii in eosdem libros expositionum libri II: p. 96. http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k54012192/f124.image (12.i.2014).
[7] Berendes, J. (1902). Des Pedanios Dioskurides aus Anarzarbos, Artzneimittellehre, in fünf Büchern: 1–572. Ferdinand Enke, Stuttgart. Text on p. 155/156, annotation on p. 156.