A Curious Herbal: Elizabeth Blackwell's Pioneering Masterpiece of Botanical Art (Hardcover)

A Curious Herbal: Elizabeth Blackwell's Pioneering Masterpiece of Botanical Art By Marta McDowell (Editor), Janet Stiles Tyson Cover Image
Not Yet Published


A complete edition of the first herbal published by a woman artist—which has a remarkable backstory

In the 1730s, Elizabeth Blackwell (1699–c. 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 five hundred of her exquisite plates. Blackwell not only made the drawings, but prepared the copper plates and personally hand-colored them. Her handwritten descriptions of the plants, which she creatively adapted (with permission) from Joseph Miller’s Botanicum Officinale, retain considerable interest. This book features a previously unknown preface by Blackwell, in which she reveals her passion for art and nature, and her vision for the herbal. Two introductory texts contextualize 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.

About the Author

Marta McDowell is a gardener, lecturer, and horticultural writer. Her books include All the Presidents’ Gardens (2016) and Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life (2013), winner of the Gold Award from the Garden Writers Association.

Janet Stiles Tyson, an independent scholar, wrote her doctoral dissertation on Elizabeth Blackwell’s Curious Herbal.
Product Details
ISBN: 9780789214539
ISBN-10: 0789214539
Publisher: Abbeville Press
Publication Date: March 21st, 2023
Pages: 576
Language: English