The greate Herball.

London, John Kynge, 1561.


Folio, 148 unnumbered leaves. *6, A-X6, Y8, Aa6, Bb2. Double column, black letter, large woodcut on title page of woodsmen felling pollarded trees (reproduction Henrey) border of compartments of figures, faces and falconers (repeated in sections in text) white on black woodcut initials, single larger woodcut. Paper flaw on page 93 affecting two or three words, a few strictly marginal stains and repairs in final gathering. A very good, clean, large copy in modern morocco, cloth boards.

Last of the early editions of the Great Herbal, corrected with improved layout, and spelling and orthography modernized for the Elizabethan reader. Interestingly, in the 35 years since Treveris’ first edition, the Herbal has physically changed from a clearly medieval to an identifiably modern book. “The most famous of all the early printed herbals” (Rohde, 65), it is now extremely rare. It was largely based upon Le Grant Herbier (Paris: Jacques Nyverd, 1520 – Renouard III, 124); both works owe much to the Herbarius zu Teutsch (Mainz 1485).

The Grete Herball contains remedies for everything from melancholy to baldness, invoking God and the Virgin Mary alongside Diana and the Centaurs. It is profoundly utilitarian in approach, and designed to be accessible to a relatively broad public, as may be seen from its publication in English rather than Latin; accordingly copies have always suffered heavy use. The Herball “contains much that is curious, especially in relation to medical matters. Bathing was evidently regarded as a strange fad. (…) Water drinking seems to have been thought almost equally pernicious” (Arber, Herbalis, 42).

The descriptions of less common remedies, such as the lodestone, often incorporate vivid travellers’ tales. The author displays pride and integrity in his profession, warning against peddlers of harmful fake remedies. The book contains a glossary of urines and of uncommon words, and a self-consciously useful index: “Here after foloweth a Table, very necessary and profitable for them that desyre to fynde quickely a remedy agaynste all maner of diseases, and they be marked by the letters of the A.B.C. in every chapytre”. All the early editions are now rare.

STC 13179. Lowndes 1047. Ames IV 2435. Henry I 171 and 18. Arber 40-45. Rohde 65-74.


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