Lot 52
  • 52

Blackwell, Elizabeth

40,000 - 60,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • A Curious Herbal, containing Five Hundred Cuts of the most useful Plants, which are now used in the Practice of Physick.  London: Samuel Harding, 1737[-1739?]
  • paper, ink, leather, gilt
2 volumes, large folio (17 1/2 x 10 3/4 in.; 445 x 275 mm) with 500 hand-colored engraved plates. Bound at the end of volume 2 are: 1 folding engraved plate of a "Peruvian Bark Tree" by J. Mynde after Johannes Hawkeens’ drawing of 1739, published 1741, printed in reverse and hand colored, with extensive manuscript caption (possibly in the hand of Josiah Messer); and an original watercolor drawing with faint pencil caption "Scylla rubra office"; marginal tear in plate 151, small hole in blank area of plate 293, repaired marginal tear to title of vol. 2 and to final leaf, margin of plate 411 chipped, some spotting and foxing throughout, mostly to text, occasional minor stains on plates forms sheet discoloration. Contemporary English black morocco gilt, covers with broad gilt borders comprising a repeated tool of a crown, star, dot, flower, and a variety of other small tools, central lozenge of the same massed tools, spines in eight compartments with seven raised bands, board edges and turn-ins gilt , marbled endpapers, expertly rebacked with original spine laid down, corners worn.


Josiah Messer (eighteenth-century ownership inscription); George Hubbard (bookplates); Christie’s London, 26 November 1981, lot 314; Christie’s New York, An Important Botanical Library, Part 1, 4 June 1997, lot 8 ( 2 Items)


Cleveland Collections 386; Dunthorne 42; Great Flower Books p.50; Henrey 450 (Banksian copy with variant title in vol.1); Hunt 510; Nissen BBI 168; Pritzel 811; Stafleu & Cowan TL2 545

Catalogue Note

First edition (early issue with both titles dated 1737), colored large-paper copy of the first herbal to be illustrated by a woman, and one of the first English botanical books to be hand colored and issued in parts.

Beautiful copy bound in contemporary black morocco, with an original watercolor and and extra plate.

The Scottish botanist "Elizabeth Blackwell (c.1700-1758) prepared ‘A Curious Herbal’, at the suggestion of Hans Sloane, as a means of getting her husband. Dr. Alexander Blackwell, out of debtor’s prison. This, with Martyn and Catesby, is one of the early flower books published in parts. Each numbered leaf was issued with the four plates described on it, at the rate of one a week for 125 weeks. Beginning in 173, the parts continued into 1739. Handcolored parts sold for two shillings, ordinary parts for one."(Hunt)