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Blackwell, Elizabeth | A subscriber's copy of the expanded German edition of the first herbal illustrated by a woman

Blackwell, Elizabeth | A subscriber's copy of the expanded German edition of the first herbal illustrated by a woman

Blackwell, Elizabeth | A subscriber's copy of the expanded German edition of the first herbal illustrated by a woman

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Blackwell, Elizabeth

Herbarium Blackwellianum emendatum et auctum id est Elisabethae Blackwell Collectio Stirpium quae in Pharmocopoliis ad Medicum usum asservantur. [Edited by Christoph Trew and others]. Nuremberg: Johann Joseph Fleischmann, [vols. I & VI]; Christian de Launoy [vols. II-IV]; the heirs of Christian de Launoy [vol. V], [1747-]1750-1754-1773

6 volumes in 3, folio (343 x 236mm). Parallel titles and text in German and Latin, 6 additional engraved titles, handcolored and heightened in gold, 615 handcolored engraved plates (numbered 1-600), many heightened with gum arabic, all but the last few by Nikolaus Eisenberger; lacking 13 text leaves in vol. 2, and 2 prelims in vol. 3 (apparently never bound in), mild spotting throughout, inked-over stamps on 3 titles, light worming to vols. 3 and 5 front pastedown and titles, early leather tabs to vols. 2, 4 and 6; short closed marginal tears to several plates (in particular 253 & 446), marginal insect damage to plates 399, 400, 600a & 600b. Contemporary German sheep, spine in six compartments with yellow morocco lettering-pieces, tooled in gilt; hinges starting, small losses to vol. 1 lettering-piece and head of spine, and vol. 2 foot of spine, corners bumped. 

A subscriber’s copy of the expanded German edition of Elizabeth Blackwell's Curious Herbal, with superb plates by Nikolaus Eisenberger.

One of the most important early German works on medicinal plants. Conceived and initially overseen by Christoph Jakob Trew, who wrote the text for the first 90 plates. Following Trew's death, Georg Rudolph Böhmer and Ernst Gottlob Bose, both leading botanists from Leipzig, continued the effort under the editorship of Christian Gottlieb Ludwig. Nikolaus Friedrich Eisenberger was responsible for re-engraving Blackwell's original 500 plates, providing an additional 100 and embellishing them with added details. Eisenberger is also known for his work on Trew's masterwork, the Hortus Nitidissimis. The edition was issued to subscribers in thirteen installments divided into six centuria. The present copy includes the first issue of volume I.

The genesis of the first edition is one of the best known in early botanical literature: Elizabeth Blackwell undertook her labor to raise money to free her husband Alexander from debtor's prison. With the support of Isaac Rand, curator at the Chelsea Physic Gardens, Blackwell drew, engraved, and colored the illustrations herself. The work, which was originally issued in weekly parts between 1737 and 1739 in London, was a great success, and afforded Alexander his freedom. The couple continued to struggle with debt after his release, and between 1737 and 1747 they sold the publishing rights and plates for her herbal to bookseller John Nourse. By the time of the publication of the present work Elizabeth, a widow, was apparently denied any profits from the enterprise.


Cleveland Collections 444; De Belder sale 29; Great Flower Books, p. 75; Nissen BBI 168; Plesch sale 63; Pritzel 812; Stafleu & Cowan 546; Wellcome II, p. 174


Amandi Abbatis (gift inscription in vols. 1 and 3) — P. Adalbero Heindl (early inscriptions, monogram to final leaf of vol. 4) — "Ad Bibliotheca Monasti Lambar--s" (inked over stamps on titles to vols. 1, 3, 5) — Christie’s London, 22 March 2000, lot 11 (undesignated consignor)

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