Skip to main content
The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes ... very much enlarged and amended by Thomas Johnson. John GERARD.
The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes ... very much enlarged and amended by Thomas Johnson
The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes ... very much enlarged and amended by Thomas Johnson
The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes ... very much enlarged and amended by Thomas Johnson
The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes ... very much enlarged and amended by Thomas Johnson

The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes ... very much enlarged and amended by Thomas Johnson

London: Adam Islip, Joice Norton & Richard Whitakers, 1633. Folio. (13 1/2 x 9 1/4 inches). [36], 1630, [48] pp., lacks preliminary and terminal blanks. Engraved architectural title by John Payne showing Theophrastus and Dioscorides, Ceres and Pomona. Approximately 2,760 woodcuts in text, numerous woodcut initials.

Early calf, bordered in blind, expertly rebacked, spine with raised bands in seven compartments, tooled and lettered in gilt. Housed in a cloth box.

Provenance: early (Irish?) botanist or apothecary (manuscript marginalia throughout); Thomas Story (signature on the dedication leaf).

The preferred second edition of Gerard's "Herbal," the first edition of Thomas Johnson's expanded version with over 2,760 woodcuts: with interesting marginalia and provenance.

Gerard was superintendent of the gardens of William Cecil, Lord Burghley, one of the most influential members of the court of Elizabeth I. In addition to his work for Lord Burghley, Gerard also raised many exotic plants in his own gardens and travelled extensively in search of new specimens. The first edition of the present work, published in 1597, was much praised for the elegance of the descriptions, but Johnson's re-editing of the work after Gerard's death greatly improved the accuracy and breadth of the original work. It is almost half as long again as the first edition of 1597 and is, in every respect, superior to its predecessor. Johnson was commissioned by the publishers to produce this amended and enlarged edition at short notice in order to forestall Parkinson's Theatrum Botanicum , believed to be imminent, (it finally appeared in 1640), and he complains bitterly in his preface that he "was forced to perform this task within the compasse of a year", -- an almost superhuman effort.

As was the case with the first edition, the woodblocks were acquired from abroad, this time from Plantin, who had used them for his editions of Dodoens, de l'Écluse, and Lobel (a few of the smaller woodcuts may thus have in fact originated in England, with Thomas Purfoot's edition of Pena and Lobel's Stirpium adversaria nova , Plantin having purchased the woodblocks in 1580). Some of the figures Johnson drew himself, notably the bunch of bananas on page 1516. This had been given to him on 10th April 1633 by Dr. Argent, President of the College of Physicians of London, who had received it from Bermuda. Johnson's drawing is the first illustration of bananas to be published in England. Having drawn and described them, he says: "the stalke with the fruit thereon I hanged up in my shop, where it became ripe about the beginning of May, and lasted until June."

The present example with contemporary manuscript marginalia throughout, adding detailed preparations and medicinal uses for the plants described. A note on the blank verso of 5N3 (i.e. the final leaf of the second part) describes the discovery of a plant on 14 January 1641 on the banks of the river "Rafernam" (i.e. the river Dodder at Rathfarnham, Dublin, Ireland), suggesting the early knowledgeable owner as an Irish botanist or apothecary.

The volume has further provenance to Thomas Story (1670-1742), the noted Quaker, friend of William Penn and early Pennsylvania settler. After his return to England, he would purchase an estate from his brother outside of Carlisle in 1723, where he actively pursued forestry, corresponding with Collinson and others and planting both Enlish and American trees.

Arber p. 282; Brunet II, 1548; Hunt 223; Nissen BBI 698; STC 11751.

Item #36852

Price: $6,750.00

See all items in Botany
See all items by