The term derives from the title of a work by the Ancient Greek physician Pedanius Dioscorides in the 1st century AD, De materia medica, 'On medical material' (Περὶ ὕλης ἰατρικῆς, Peri hylēs iatrikēs, in Greek). The term survives in the title of the British Medical Journal's "Materia Non Medica" column.
His work was rediscovered in the 15th century and became the authority on medicine and healing for the next two centuries. The Greek physician Pedanius Dioscorides, of Anazarbus in Asia Minor, wrote a five-volume treatise concerning medical matters, entitled Περὶ ὕλης ἰατρικῆς in Greek or De Materia Medica in Latin. He wrote about 40 books on medicine. The works contain 16, 242 and 570 references to Dioscorides, respectively. Most of these authors copied each other, from previous works. There were several De Materia Medica works noted as Anonymous A, B, C and D by the expert on Dioscorides-De Materia Medica professor John M. Riddle. The work of the Italian physician and humanist Ermolao Barbaro was published in 1516, 23 years after his death. He claimed to have corrected 5000 mistakes between two editions of Pliny the Elder's Naturalis historia, a work he found very similar to Materia Medica, for which he used at least two editions as well. This was the first annotated Latin translation of Dioscorides' Materia Medica, and so Barbaro became the earliest of the Renaissance translators of Dioscorides, a practice that saw its golden age in the 16th century. Barbaro's work was later corrected by Giovanni-Battista.
He perfected the Latin translation of the Materia Medica directly from the "princeps" edition. This work, printed in 1516 by Henri Estienne/Stephano, became very popular, having 20 editions during the 16th century. He published editions until 1537, printed by Simon de Colines. From this point, Latin was the preferred language for presenting De Materia Medica, and Ruel's editions became the basis from which many other important authors would start to create their own Materia Medica. Ruel was also teacher of two great De Materia Medica authors: Michel de Villeneuve and Andres Laguna.
He was an Arabist, and translated works of Avicena. In 1550 he published his first Materia Medica, printed by Balthazar Arnoullet in Lyons. This work had a second edition in 1552 printed by Arnoullet in Lyon and Vienne. According to Spanish scholar González Echeverría in several communications in the ISHM, the John M. Riddle Anonymous B (De Materia Medica of 1543) would be Michael Servetus, and that the Anonymous D (De Materia Medica of 1554 of Mattioli plus non-signed commentaries) is two commentarians, Servetus and Mattioi, being the last one hired for editing the "Lyons printers' Tribute to Michel de Villeneuve" edition. Michael Servetus, using the name "Michel de Villeneuve", who already had his first death sentence from the University of Paris, anonymously published a Dioscorides-De Materia Medica in 1543, printed by Jean & Francois Frellon in Lyon. It has 277 marginalia and 20 commentaries on a De Materia Medica of Jean Ruel. There is another Materia Medica with commentaries on a Ruel edition of 1537, printed by Simon de Colines. The manuscript of the Complutense” is not just a union of the ideas of the previous works by Michel de Villeneuve, Syropum Ratio, etc., but also of the later works, Enquiridion, De Materia Medica of 1543, sharing with this last many of its 20 big commentaries, for instance. According to this theory, in 1554, after the immolation of Michael de Villeneuve/Servetus, the editors and printers that had worked with him would have decided to make a new De Materia Medica as a tribute to their colleague and friend. All the commentaries that could identify Michel de Villeneuve as the author disappeared, but the rest are copied from his work of 1543. For developing a bigger work and to blur the mark of Michel de Villeneuve, they hired the expert on De Materia Medica, Pietro Andrea Mattioli.
Pietro Andrea Mattioli was a renowned botanist and physician. He published a translation of De Materia Medica into Italian in 1544 and ten years later published a work in Latin with all the plants of Dioscorides and 562 woodcut illustrations. He frequently tested the effects of poisonous plants on prisoners in order to popularize his works. He also affirmed that Jean Ruel had declared some information in the licopsis chapter of his Materia Medica. This made editions of Matioli's De Materia Medica omnipresent throughout the continent, especially in northern Europe.
In 1554 the physician Andres Laguna published his Annotations on Dioscorides of Anazarbus printed by Guillaume Rouillé in Lyons. Laguna was the first to translate De Materia Medica into Castilian. This was not an illustrated work. These qualities and the number of woodcuts made this work very popular and appreciated in medicine far beyond the 16th century. Cordus had no intention of publishing his work. Five years after his death, a Materia Medica with commentaries was published. The French physician Martin Mathee published in 1553 the French translation of De Materia Medica, printed by Balthazar Arnoullet, in Lyons.
Summary of this Wikipedia page.