BLACKWELL, ELIZABETH. A Curious Herbal, containing Five Hundred Cuts of the most useful Plants, which are now used in the practice of Physick. London: for Samuel Harding, 1737 [-1739?]
2 vols., large folio, 445 x 275 mm., 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, g.e., expertly rebacked with original spine laid down, corners worn, 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, some sheet discoloration.
FIRST EDITION, COLORED LARGE-PAPER COPY. Early issue with both title-pages dated 1737. Contents, Vol I: Title dated 1737 (1 leaf); "This Undertaking was honoured with the following Publick Recommendation...London, October 1, 1735" (1 leaf); Latin commendation to E.B. from College of Physicians "primo Julii 1737" (1 leaf); dedication to T. Pellet (14 July), R. Mead (14 July), A. Stuart (2 August), H. Sloane (2 August), R. Nicholls (8 August) (5 leaves all dated 1737); Preface..."Chelsea April ye 12th 1739" (2 leaves) + plates 1 to 252 and engraved leaves of text 1 to 63; "English Index" (1 leaf); "Catalogus Plantarum" (1 leaf). Vol. II: Title dated 1737 (1 leaf); dedication to Isaac Rand (16 August 1737) (1 leaf) + plates 253 to 500 and engraved leaves of text 64 to 125; "English index" (1 leaf); "Catalogus Plantarum" (1 leaf). A variant early issue (cf. Banksian copy in B.L.) has "This Undertaking...Publick Recommendation" printed on the verso of vol. 1 title. Engraved throughout, 500 hand-colored engraved plates. Bound in at end of vol. 2, before the Index leaves, is 1) a folding engraved plate (315 x 400 mm. plus margins) of a "Peruvian Bark Tree" by J. Mynde after Johannes Hawkeens' drawing of 1739, published 1741, printed in reverse and handcolored, with extensive manuscript caption (possibly in the hand of Josiah Messer); and 2) an original watercolor drawing with faint pencil caption "Scylla rubra offic.", unsigned.
ONE OF THE EARLIEST ENGLISH BOTANICAL BOOKS WITH HAND-COLORED PLATES and one of the first to be published in parts. 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 1737, the parts continued into 1739. Handcolored parts sold for two shillings, ordinary parts for one." -- Hunt.
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.
Provenance: Josiah Messer, eighteenth-century signature on first blank pages; George Hubbard, bookplates -- Unidentified consignor (sale, Christie's London, 26 November 1981, lot 314). (2)