GERARD, JOHN. The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes. London: John Norton, 1597.
Folio, 336 x 220 mm., modern speckled calf, fraying to edges of title, dedication leaf and last leaf, the latter with small repair to corner, last 3 leaves stained at top, occasional marginal dampstaining throughout.
FIRST EDITION, engraved allegorical title with inset view of a garden, woodcut arms on verso, engraved portrait of Gerard, both by William Rogers, approximately 1800 woodcuts of plants in text.
"The publisher, Norton, had commissioned a Dr. Robert Priest to do a translation of Dodoens' Stirpium Historiae Pemptades Sex (... 1583) but Dr. Priest died before the work was printed. His manuscript came into the hands of John Gerard, who changed Dodoens' arrangement for that of Pena and de Lobel, added many English localities and some homely observations on the uses of the plants, and published the work as his own" (Hunt). Most of the woodcuts were leased or purchased by Norton from the Frankfurt printer Nicolas Basse, who had used them in his 1588 edition of Tabernaemontanus's herbal. Since Gerard was unfamiliar with many of the plants in Dodoens' herbal, his matching of the woodcuts to the text was somewhat haphazard. De Lobel "finally had to be called in to straighten out the tangle, and made over 1,000 corrections. Gerard, however, became impatient with L'Obel's rate of progress and cut the work short. The Herball then went to press, errors and all" (Anderson, p. 224). In spite of its many errors and the fact that, "in all honesty [it] should be recognized as Dodoens' Herbal with English dress" (op. cit., p. 225), Gerard's delightfully written compilation remained the only herbal available to the English-speaking public until the publication of Parkinson's Paradisi in Sole Terrestris in 1629. Undoubtedly because of its popularity, complete copies in good condition are quite scarce.
Henrey 154; Nissen BBI 698; STC 11750; Hunt 175 ("important among other things for having the first illustration of the potato"--one of the few woodcuts original to the edition).
Provenance: Kenneth K. Mackenzie; Horticultural Society of New York, bookplate.