BLACKWELL, Elizabeth (ca 1700-1758). A Curious Herbal, containing Five Hundred Cuts, of the most useful plants, which are now used in the Practice of Physick. London: John Nourse, 1739.

$ 37,500.00

2 volumes. Folio (14 2/8 x 9 4/8 inches). Engraved title-pages (that to volume one remargined in the gutter), vignette dedication leaves, indexes, and text leaves (some mostly marginal spotting throughout). 500 hand-colored engraved plates (plate 50 with closed tear crossing the image, some plates in volume II quite browned, plates 286-290 waterstained, some spotting throughout). Contemporary calf (rebacked preserving much of the original spines, one or two repairs to covers).

Provenance: With the early 19th-century ink library stamp of Rudolph Jordan at the head of each title-page; endpapers inscribed with consecutive ownership inscriptions from 1816 - 1933 as the volumes were passed down through the Jordan, Wille, and Tilse families, full details upon request.

Second edition. Begun in 1735 as an attempt to unify medical and botanical illustrated texts on useful plants and, in the hope of having her husband released from debtor's prison, Elizabeth Blackwell rented a house opposite the Chelsea Physic Garden, at 4, Swan Walk, at the suggestion of Isaac Reed, in order to draw and engrave the plants there. Her husband helped by supplying the common names of the plants in various languages. After finishing the drawings Elizabeth engraved them on copper herself, and coloured the 500 prints individually by hand. Initially published in weekly parts, the first volume, which contained commendations from the Royal College of Physicians, was completed in 1737, the second in 1738 or early 1739. The work was an enormous success, her husband went to Sweden where he was employed as an agricultural expert (Linnaeus visited him in 1746), but he unfortunately became involved with a political intrigue and was executed in 1747.