"Your plant is a thing various and manifold and . . . difficult to describe in general terms," wrote Aristotle's student Theophrastus. Dubbed the "father of botany," Theophrastus took 10 substantial books to complete his Enquiry into Plants. Ancient herbals were already large, but with the addition of new plants and new names by Middle Eastern and then European scholars, medieval herbals could be huge, some with over 5,000 entries. The entry for "Camadaphne" (Spurge) shown above begins, as is typical, with a list of alternate names.
Theophrastus, Enquiry into Plants, Camadaphne, Spurge