The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes.


The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes.

London, Adam Islip, Joice Norton and Richard Whitakers, 1633.

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The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes.


Second edition of Johnson’s enlarged version. The herbalist John Gerard (c.1545-1612), born in Cheshire, was employed as gardener to William Cecil, Lord Burghley. A senior member of the Barber-surgeons’ company, Gerard spent his adult life in Holborn, where he cultivated a garden. A catalogue of this garden was published as Catalogus arborum fructium ac plantarum tam indigenarum, quam exoticarum, in horto Johannis Gerardi nascentium (London, 1596). A great rarity, this work is considered the first printed complete catalogue of any one garden, in any language. However Gerard’s fame rests on this great Herball published in London in 1597.

Thomas Johnson’s 1633 edition of Gerard’s Herball is ‘sometimes referred to as ‘Gerard emaculatus’ or ‘Johnson’s Gerard’ … There had been an interval of thirty-six years since the original edition was issued and during this time no other herbal had appeared in England. It was time, therefore, for a more up-to-date work to be published … Thomas Johnson, a London apothecary, was asked to undertake the task … Notwithstanding the short time at his disposal Johnson produced an edition that was noteworthy for its many corrections, improvements and additions … As in the case of the Herball of 1597 most of the wood-blocks for the illustrations were obtained ‘from beyond the seas’. They had been used previously at Antwerp by Plantin for the works of de l’Obel, Dodoens, and de l’Ecluse’ (Henrey).

The principle reason for the speed with which Johnson prepared his updated edition of Gerard’s Herball was that he was keen for it to be issued before John Parkinson’s Theatrum Botanicum. Johnson was successful in his upstaging of Parkinson for, though entered in the Stationer’s register in 1634, Parkinson’s work was held off till 1640 in the knowledge that Johnson’s production would sate the market for some time.

Gerard’s Herball, describing and illustrating several hundred flowering plants, including 182 species which had not been described in earlier works, can be considered one of most significant early-modern English botanical publications and endured as a primary source of reference into the eighteenth century.


Second edition. Folio. [38], 1630, [48]pp., engraved title-page by John Payne, numerous woodcuts of plants in the text, bound without first and last blanks as usual, title-page with small repair, text clean and perfect; eighteenth century russia rebacked preserving spine, corners repaired, a most attractive example.


STC 11751; Henrey 155.


Stock ID: 97013