Quite in contrast to earlier, negative assessments of Anglo-Saxon medicine, research in the past thirty years has shown that it was in fact by no means backward, but should be ranked on the same level as contemporary medieval medicine on the Continent. However, a special characteristic of Anglo-Saxon medico-botanical literature is the fact that in England (as opposed to the primarily Latin literature on the Continent) many texts were written in the vernacular, i.e. in Old English. Some of the texts include the Old English Herbarium Apuleii, the Laeceboc, Lacnunga and Peri Didaxeon, all of which were edited as early as 1864-6 by Oswald Cockayne in his monumental three volumes titeled Leechdoms, Wortcunning and Starcraft of Early England. The Anglo-Saxon's interest in medico-botanical writings is also witnessed by the enormous number of more than 6000 Latin-Old English plant glosses.
It goes without saying that one of the most important aspects of a re-evaluation of Old English medicine is the correct identification of the plant names in the respective texts. Other aspects which are not well represented or sometimes entirely ignored in the existing dictionaries and studies are the etymology, the morphology (including word formation) and the semantics (including motivation) of the Old English plant names. A systematic treatment of the Old English plant names with regard to identification and linguistic analysis is the aim of our dictionary project.
The dictionary team is based at two universities: part of the work (mainly the collection of the material and the identification of the plants) is carried out at the University of Graz (Austria) under the direction of Peter Bierbaumer with the assistance of Helmut Klug, and the other part (mainly the linguistic analysis with respect to etymology, morphology and meaning) is carried out at the University of Munich under the direction of Hans Sauer with the assistance of Ulrike Krischke.