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pl. 210 The Tree of Life
Published in London in 1737-39 - A wonderfully detailed hand colored botanical engraving by Elizabeth Blackwell from her book"A Curious Herbal Containing Five Hundred Cuts of the Most Useful Plants Which are Now Used in the Practice of Physick", which was published in London in 1737-39. Overal this print measures 11.25"x18". In 1737, Elizabeth produced a delightful volume, A Curious Herbal, containing many decorative plates of various plants. Such herbals, illustrating and describing plants for their alleged medicinal powers, were the medical books of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The story of Blackwell’s book is particularly interesting. Talented and fiercely independent women seem to have flourished in the field of botanical illustration. Mrs. Blackwell - apparently neither an artist nor a botanist - was suddenly faced with the problem of obtaining her doctor husband’s release from a debtor’s prison, where he was languishing after an abortive foray into the printing business. On the advice of Sir Hans Sloane, the famous London Physician and patron of naturalists, who had told her that a herbal of medicinal plants was needed, the resourceful lady set herself up in lodgings near the Chelsea Physic Garden , founded by the Society of Apothecaries on a piece of land donated by Sloane, and proceeded to make drawings of the appropriate plants. The result of her initiative and labors was A Curious Herbal, with 500 hand-colored copperplate engravings. The indirect result was Dr. Alexander Blackwell’s release from prison. Her efforts on his behalf certainly seem worthwhile today to anyone looking at A Curious Herbal. Blackwell herself did not fair so well in the long run. Upon his release from prison, Dr. Alexander Blackwell worked for the Duke of Chandos and later for the King of Sweden. Unfortunately, after a few years in the King’s service, he became involved in a sordid political intrigue and was beheaded for treason. Elizabeth Blackwell may have regretted the work she put into her wonderful herbal, but we can only be be delighted by her labor of love. Overall this print is in good condition with some light foxing, staining, and creasing in margins. Evidence of previous binding on left margin. Darker staining behind the image.
      [Bookseller: Arader Galleries San Francisco]
Last Found On: 2014-10-10           Check availability:      AbeBooks    

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