A Curious Herbal: Elizabeth Blackwell’s Pioneering Masterpiece of Botanical Art


Available for Pre-order. Due February 2023.
A Curious Herbal: Elizabeth Blackwell’s Pioneering Masterpiece of Botanical Art Editor: Marta McDowell Format: Hardback First Published: Published By: Abbeville Press Inc.,U.S.
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Pages: 576 Illustrations and other contents: 500 Illustrations, color Language: English ISBN: 9780789214539 Categories: ,

In the 1730s, Elizabeth Blackwell (c.1707-1758) found herself penniless, with her ne’er-do-well husband confined to a London debtor’s prison. A talented artist, she came up with a unique and ambitious moneymaking scheme: the publication of a new illustrated guide to medicinal plants, including many New World species not included in earlier books. Blackwell’s Curious Herbal, published between 1737 and 1739, was hailed for its usefulness to doctors and apothecaries and met with considerable financial success. This magnificent volume – the first modern edition of Blackwell’s herbal – reproduces all 500 of her exquisite plates (not only drawn but engraved and hand-coloured by her personally) along with her handwritten descriptions of the plants, which retain considerable interest. Two introductory texts contextualise Blackwell’s achievement: the noted garden writer Marta McDowell explores the history of herbals as a genre, and the state of botanical knowledge in Blackwell’s time; and the historian Janet Stiles Tyson relates the artist’s rather extraordinary biography. A Curious Herbal will be essential for all lovers of botanical art, and for anyone interested in women’s history and the history of science.

Weight1.969506 kg


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Author Biography

Marta McDowell teaches landscape history and horticulture at the New York Botanical Garden. She has authored several books, including Unearthing "The Secret Garden" and All the Presidents' Gardens. Janet Stiles Tyson, an independent scholar, wrote her doctoral dissertation on Elizabeth Blackwell's A Curious Herbal.