By John Gerard and Thomas Johnson
The Herbal, or General History of Plants was first published in 1597, and in a new edition revised and expanded by Thomas Johnson, in 1633. The revised version is a magnificent work; over 1600 folio pages illustrated with nearly 2,000 woodcuts. Described by Edmund Gosse as "the noblest of all the English Herbals," it covers virtually every plant known to western botany at the time. Each is described and illustrated, with notes on the places where it may be found, when it flowers, its names in various languages, and its medicinal uses. Interspersed with these, are various charming anecdotes and quotations from ancient and modern authors. The illustrations are extremely accurate and modern botanists can easily identify the plant from them. The medicinal uses are detailed and very numerous; so much so that one wonders how in those days anyone was ever ill at all. There are even cures for diseases with no modern treatment, such as "pestilential botch", "unprofitable blood", and "hardening of the matrix."
This Ex-Classics edition is a work in progress. Here we have the first of five volumes, which has all the introductory material, and Book One, Containing Grass, Rushes, Reeds, Corn, Flags, and Bulbous, or Onion-rooted plants. Volumes 2 3, and 4 will make up Book Two, Containing most sorts of Herbs used for Meat, Medicine, or Sweet Smelling, and finally Volume 5 will hold Book 3, Containing Trees, Shrubs, Bushes, Fruit-Bearing Plants, Rosins, Gums, Roses, Heaths, Mosses, Mushrooms, Coral, and their several kinds, together with the addenda.