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John Gerard (1545-1612)

The Herball, or, Generall historie of plantes 1636

RCIN 1057467

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Trained as a Barber-surgeon, John Gerard (1545-1612) divided his time working as superintendent of the gardens of William Cecil, Lord Burghley (1521-98), as curator of the Physic Garden at the College of Physicians as well as maintaining his own private garden in which he "grew all manner of strange trees, herbes, rootes, plants, flowers and other such rare things" including the first potato grown in England. His Herball, the most famous of all English herbals, was first published in 1597 and reprinted in 1633 and 1636. It was an instant success and remained influential until the eighteenth century. Gerard was acquainted with the famous botanist Carolus Clusius, who travelled to London three times between 1571 and 1581, and his Herball has many similarities to Clusius' publications (see, for example RCIN 1057452), even using the same woodcuts from the publisher Christopher Plantin (c. 1520-89) to illustrate the text. Gerard's Herball however, also included an extensive commentary with anecdotes on the folklore surrounding certain plant species. This book is a copy of the 1636 edition, and contains over 800 species of plants and more than 2,500 woodcuts.

Entry adapted from 'Painting Paradise' London 2015.