The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes.

GERARD John and; JOHNSON Thomas (1633)

£65000.00  [First Edition]

Gathered by John Gerarde of London Master in Chirurgerie Very much enlarged and amended by Thomas Johnson Citizen and Apothecarye of London. 


Second Edition (First edition revised and expanded by Thomas Johnson). Large Folio. [Text: 348 x 230 mm]. [39], 1630, [2 (4 woodcuts on recto, verso blank), [48 (indexes, last page with errata; last leaf blank)] pp. Engraved title-page by John Payne, at the head the Tetragrammaton of God shining on a garden scene between figures of Ceres and Pomona; in the centre the title between figures of Theophrastus and Dioscorides; at the foot a portrait of John Gerard and the imprint between vases of flowers (the one on the left surmounted by a bunch of bananas) set in windows looking onto rocky landscapes; woodcut illustrations throughout the text. The engraved title, all the woodcuts, the woodcut ornaments and initials in the preliminaries and on the first page of text, and at the end of the main text and opening of the appendix all with CONTEMPORARY HAND-COLOURING.


Short closed tear to lower margin of Aaa6 (touching the catchword on the verso), small piece torn from the blank fore-margin of Gggg6 (not touching the text), paper flaws to the lower corner of Iiii1-2, upper corner of Ccccc5 and lower margin of Vvvvv2. The verso of  final blank leaf dusty (before binding).


Contemporary London binding of black morocco by LORD HERBERT OF CHERBURY'S BINDER, the covers tooled in gilt with an outer border and large panel formed by two dog-tooth rolls; the outer corners of the panel with a vase of flowers between a pair of pecking birds on a branch, the inner corners with one of a pair of pecking birds on a vinestem with scroll volutes and a small vase of flowers; in the centre a large lozenge of separate tools including scrolls, small and large pillars, another pair of birds and the larger vase of flowers; spine with six raised bands outlined with the dog-tooth roll, the seven panels tooled in gilt with the same design of the pair of pecking birds on a vinestem and a bee at each side; lettered at the head: "GERHARDS HERB:"; edges gilt and gauffered with a design of birds (two on the side and one at the head and tail) on leafy stems with two bunches of grapes, strawberries, pea-pods, acorns and cherries (the gilt rubbed away at the front of the lower edge and dulled with dirt at the head). A handsome binding in good condition (minor refurbishing to the joints, spine-bands and headcaps and a minor repair to the upper headcap). 


London: printed by Adam Islip, Joice Norton and Richard Whitakers,

STC 11751. First published in 1597. This is the first edition with the extensive additions by Thomas Johnson and many additional new woodcuts. This edition was re-printed in 1636.


The first revised edition of the most famous English herbal: copiously illustrated with woodcuts and including extensive notes on the use of plants for medicinal purposes based on both first-hand research by Gerard and Johnson. With an overview of plants from across the world, including the first reference in any herbal to the potato.


John Gerard's Herball was first published in 1597 and quickly became the standard English reference work on the subject despite being criticised for being based on earlier Continental herbals. The apothecary and botanist, Thomas Johnson (c.1595-1644) edited and updated Gerard's work. He was commissioned by Joyce Norton, widow of John Norton, the publisher of the first edition, and her two partners Richard Whitaker, concerned by the threat to their rights by the projected Theatrum Botanicum of John Parkinson which appeared in 1640. This new edition included many more woodcuts (the woodcuts "from beyond the Seas" were taken from books printed at the Plantin press and are not the same as the cuts in 1597 edition) and extensive extra material by Johnson is clearly marked with a series of symbols to show his work. Although it is as "Gerard's Herbal" that it became universally known Thomas Johnson's role in correcting and supplementing Gerard's original book cannot be underestimated; it made into the work which generations have known since.


Each entry has an illustration and description followed by details of where the plants can be found (often based on Johnson's own plant-hunting tours of England), the time of year that it usually grows, an explanation of the names given to it and its "vertues" or medicinal uses. Much of the information shows Gerard and Johnson's own personal research and includes much anecdotal evidence about the plants. John Gerard was William Cecil, Lord Burghley's gardener and tended the garden of the College of Physicians in Chelsea as well as maintaining his own personal garden at his "House in Holborn within the Suburbs of London". Johnson also had his own garden at his home at Snow Hill in the City of London, so both were able to experiment with growing plants and received many unusual specimens from correspondents both around Britain and abroad.


The first-hand accounts by Gerard and Johnson figuratively 'root' the book firmly in London (and, in Johnson's case, Kent where he made several journeys) and provide much detail about gardening, medicine and food and drink preparation.


This edition reprints all the "para-material" from Gerard's first edition of 1597: his dedication to Sir William Cecil, Lord Burghley, the Latin addresses to Gerard by Lancelot Browne, physician to Queen Elizabeth, and Mathias de L'Obel, the Flemish physician and botanist living in London, five Latin liminary verses, and English addresses to the Reader by Stephen Bredwell [Bradwell], physician, by George Baker, "one of her Majesties chiefe Chirurgions in ordinarie", and by Gerard himself. There is a new dedication by Johnson to Richard Edwards, Edward Cooke, Leonard Stone and the rest of the members of the Society of Apothecaries, and a new 11-page address "To the Reader" in which Johnson rehearses the history of botanical writing from ancient to modern times concluding with John Gerard himself who is damned with faint praise:


"His chiefe commendation is, that he out of a propense good will to the publique advancement of this knowledge, endeavoured to performe therein more than he could well accomplish; which was partly through want of sufficient learning, ... He was also very little conversant in the writings of the Antients, neither, as it may seeme by divers passages, could hee well distinguish betweene the antient and modern writer; ... But let none blame him for these defects, seeing he was neither wanting in pains nor good will, to performe what he intended; and there are none so simple but know, that heavy burthens are with most paines undergone by the weakest men: and although there were many faults in the worke, yet iudge well of the Author; ..." Johnson then explains the many improvements and additions to his new edition which are identified in the text by a series of initials and listed in a 7-page "Catalogue of additions".


Johnson's revision of Gerard's text ends on (pp. 1588-9) with the Barnacle Goose - Gerard believed the medieval myth that they were hatched from barnacles generated at sea from drift-wood but Johnson quotes reports that they "were found by some Hollanders to have another originall, and that by eggs as other birds have: for they in their third voiage to find out the North-East passage to China & the Molucco's, about 80 degree and eleven minutes of Northerly latitude, found two little Islands, in one of which they tooke away sixty eggs, &c." Barnacles, on the other hand, he explains "are a kind of Balanus marinus" shell. This is followed by "An Appendix or Addition of certaine Plants omitted in the former Historie" (pp. 1591-1630, [2]), forgotten or omitted in their proper place due to the "troublesomenesse, and above all, the great expectation and hast of the Worke, whereby I was forced to performe this task within the compasse of a yeare."


This section opens with the "Maracoc or Passion-floure" which "growes wilde in most of the hot countries of America, from whence it hath been brought into our English gardens, where it growes very well, but floures only in some few places, and in hot and seasonable yeares: it is good plenty growing with Mistresse Tuggy at Westminster, where I have some yeares seene it beare a great many floures." It ends with a leaf with four woodcuts (verso blank) omitted from their proper places as this "worke was begun to be printed before such time as we received all the figures from beyond the Seas".


Among the many new entries by Johnson are:


"The Sugar Cane groweth in many parts of Europe at this day, as in Spaine, Portugal, Olbia, and in Provence. It groweth also in Barbarie, genreally almost every where in the Canarie Islands, and inthose of Maedra, in the East and West Indies, and many other places. My selfe did plant some shoots thereof in my garden, and some in Flanders did the like: but the coldnesse of our clymate made and end of mine, and I thinke the Flemings will have the like profit of their labour" (p.38).


Of the Potato: "It groweth naturally in America, where it was first discovered ... since which time I have received roots hereof from Viriginia, otherwise called Norembega, which grow and propepr in my garden as in their owne native country ... the temperature and vertues be referred unto the common Potatoes, being likewise a food, as also a meate for pleasure, equalll in goodnesse and wholesomeness unto the same, being either roasted in the embers, or boyled and eaten with oyle, vinegar, and pepper, or dressed any other way by the hand of some cunning in cookerie" (p.928).


The book is an important early guide to the botanical life of America: 

“There were three great herbal authorities upon which the seventeenth-century settlers of New England mainly depended. Noted in inventories, listed by booksellers, mentioned in libraries and referred to in text, these are: Gerard’s Herball, 1633 edition, done over by Thomas Johnson, Parkinson’s Paradisi in Sole, Paradisus Terrestris, published in 1629, and Culpeper’s Herbal…Gerard’s Herball sets out to be encyclopaedic and achieves such vigour, charm and style as place it in the forefront of quotable books in English literature. It has both spark and salt. Neither of the others has either” (Early American Gardens: For Meate or Medicine by Ann Leighton (1987) p. 140). 


Raymond Stearns neatly summarizes Johnson's updating of Gerard: "Johnson’s “Gerardus Immaculatus” [Johnson's edition of Gerard] was a vast improvement over Gerard’s Herball and it became the guide-book of American colonial botanical collectors for man years” (Raymond Stearns, Science in the British Colonies of America (1970), p. 63-4)



There is a long section on tending fruit grown on vines and making wine from grapes: "The kindes of wine are not of one nature, nor of one facultie or power, but of many differing one from another: for there is one difference thereof in taste, another in colour; the third is refered to the consistence or substance of the wine wine; the fourth consisteth in the vertue and strength thereof ... by age wines become hotter and sharper, and doe withall change oftentimes the colour, the substance, the smell: for some wines are sweet of taste, others austere or something harsh. ...The stronger and fuller wine groweth in hot countrues and places that lie to the sun" p.878-9).


Binding: This is one of the finest examples of the work of the so-called "Lord Herbert of Cherbury's Binder", for whom see Dr Mirjam Foot's essay "Lord Herbert and the Squirrel Binder" in The Henry Davis Gift, Vol. I (1978), pp. 50-58. The binder was named for a group of specially-bound presentation / family copies of Edward, Lord Herbert of Cherbury's philosophical treatise, De Veritate published first in Latin (Paris, 1624), reprinted (London, 1633) and in French translation (De la Verité, [?Paris], 1639). Some 20 examples are known, all apparently bound by the same eponymously-christened shop. In her essay Dr Foot noted that "Lord Herbert's Binder" can be linked with two other workshops which can be associated with the royal bookseller John Bill who supplied many bindings for James I & Charles I: the so-called "Squirrel Binder", named for his most characteristic tool, and Howard Nixon's "Binder who was employed by John Bill" (Five Centuries of English Bookbinding, 1978, no.28). She dates the combined shops' activities to the first thirty or forty years of the 17th Century. 


The tooling of birds and vinestems and the attractive gauffered design of birds and fruits on the gilt edges were clearly inspired by the text.


Other published bindings by LORD HERBERT OF CHERBURY'S BINDER with these attractive pecking bird tools and vinestem tools and/or the pillars are: Edward, Lord Herbert, De la Verité (?Paris, 1639), ex Earls of Powis, Powis Castle, Sotheby, 16/1/1956, lot 217 to Maggs (Maggs Catalogue 845/70& 887/1625) - Robert S Pirie, Sotheby, New York, 2/12/2015, lot 428; another copy (this without the Herbert crest), anonymous sale, Sotheby, 20/6/1960, lot 219 - J. R. Abbey, Sotheby, 20/6/1967, lot 1893 - Earl of Perth, Christie, 20/11/2003, lot 100. A Booke of Common Prayer and Holy Bible (1633) in the British Library (Foot, Henry Davis Gift, II, no. 70) and Adam Freitag, L'Architecture militaire (Leiden, 1633) in the British Library (Foot, Henry Davis Gift, II, no. 71).


Provenance: William Kerr (c. 1605-75), 1st (or 3rd) Earl of Lothian (cr. 1631), Scottish solider and covenanter politician. Included in the 1361 titles listed in his 1666 manuscript library catalogue in the National Library of Scotland, Newbattle MS 5818: "58 Gerards Herball Illuminate Illuminate [sic], Blew Spanish leather guilded." ODNB notes of his library that the "largest proportion were in French, and many others were in Latin or Italian, with only a few in English. The catalogue lists only a very small number of theological books, such as Bayly's Practice of Piety and Owen's Communion with God. Instead, the collection was rich in humanist works of history, philosophy, geography, politics, and even science. Besides classical works by HomerVirgilCiceroSeneca, and TacitusLothian had also acquired the writings of MachiavelliLipsiusMontaigneBacon, and Rabelais."


William Kerr was the son of Sir Robert Ker (1578-1654), courtier and politician, Master of the Privy Purse and Gentleman of the Bedchamber to Charles I who created him Earl of Ancram at his Scottish coronation in June 1633. As Sir Robert Kerr was based in London he handed over his Scottish estates at Ancram and elsewhere to his eldest son William who, in 1630, had married Anne Ker, suo jure Countess of Lothian as heir to her father Robert Ker, 2nd Earl of Lothian (d. 1631); William who was considered 3rd Earl of Lothian in her right was then created (1st) Earl of Lothian in his own right on 31 October 1631. From London, Sir Robert Kerr "busied himself in ensuring that his son could live up to the new rank" (ODNB).


As part of his campaign to ensure that his son lived in an appropriate style at Ancram [now Ancrum], Sir Robert wrote a multi-paged letter to him dated from London, 20 December 1632, in which he laid out detailed instructions for improvements to the Tower Hall at Ancram and its furnishings, and the layout of its stables and other appurtenances, cottages, gardens, orchards, and surrounding parks, walks, woods, and pastures - "... my advyse for building in Ancram, and what yow would do about the parkes ..." (Correspondence of Sir Robert Ker, First Earl of Ancram and his son William, Third Earl of Lothian, 1875, Vol. I, pp. 62-76).


In this letter, which has been much-quoted in books on Scottish Renaissance architecture and gardening, Sir Robert Kerr advises his son: "... For yow must make all things of bewty and ornament and use, not onely for your selff but for other folk; and I love to see a house not straitted or minsed, but to have aneugh of roome in a large noble manner; nor is it all to be done at ones, butt piece and piece, and to be disposed to that effect as you may overtake it. ...


"I would have you make a high dyke or wall as highe as the parke wall, and within plant a fayr orchard of the best fruits you can gett in the abbyes about yiow; for that place is fittest for fruit of all the places about Ancram; as lyeing well to the sunn and under the north wynd, and ane excellent soyle for that purpose; ...


"Now to come back to the orchard or garden, yow will have much adoe to make them very fyne, but the next best is to have aneugh of them, and where fruit trees will grow, plant them, but never plant a fruit tree where it will not grow well, and where it can not be kept from pulling, by hedges separrating it from the rest of your garden. Never plant it where the north wynd cums to it - it is lost labour - plant other trees there. Yett take away presently the high trees which grow so neere the tower, by the back of the woman house, and there yow must make your garden, with walks from it to the doucat alleye, and so along the bak to your park, which is your cheeff garden and bewty. And as I wrote herrein a little before, your aples and plooms and sum choyse peares will grow best on the orchard yow are to make in the brae by a triangle under the doucat alley, so agayne wher the old balgreen was, between the dealtres in the midst of it, peare trees will grow well, whereof seek out the best within Newbattle and Jedbrugh, and other places of renowne, and eyther plant or graft the best. ...


"Lett the gardner's house be upp above towards the byre, plant it with cherrye trees; for I have seen excellent cherryes grow there with little caire, so as I know it will be an excellent cherry garden, which in Scotland is one of your best fruits where they are choysed, and plant aboundance of grosers [gooseberries] and risors and strauberryes, and roses and all flowers all over your orchard, for they will growe well in Ancram. .."


Sir Robert Ker made it clear to his son that as he controlled the purse-strings he expected his "advyse" to be treated as instructions - "just as I chalk for yow (because I would have it donne to my fancy), or ells, yow will before yow goe so farr that it can not be altered, give me better reasoun by your next letter. It is for yow that I do all I entedd there; and I am glade that yow are aryved at so much understanding as to do as not of your self as by my advyse. Butt if I paye for it, take my counsell along with yow, and God bless and direct yow in all yow do."   


The Earl of Lothian was certainly acting on his father's instructions. On 9 January 1650, Sir Thomas Cunningham, Conservator of the Scots Nation in the Low Countries, wrote to him from Campvere [Veere], the Staple Port for Scotland:


"... I had bespoke some 200 linde [linden] and abeel [white poplar] trees, with 100 cherie-trees of the best sort, both high and low imped [grafted] for orchards and gardene walles (as also some for Sir John Smith), in hope to have sent them with this fleete, but they could not come from Holland by reason of the frost, ... But if your Lordship be still resolved to make use of any trees from hence, the surest way is to have them in readiness here in the latter end of October or beginning of November, whereof I attend your Lordship's resolution. And whereas your Lordship is desirous to have a skillfull gardner (speaking English or Frensh), for setting the trees and dressing the gardene, there are few here that are anywise expert, but they gett continuall employment; howsoever, if your Lordship pleaseth, I beleeve I shall gett some one or other perswaded to make a tryall." (Correspondence of Sir Robert Ker, First Earl of Ancram and his son William, Third Earl of Lothian, 1875, Vol. II, p. 256).


However, with the defeat of Charles II at the Battles of Dunbar (3 September 1650) and Worcester (3 September 1651), Lothian's political and financial fortunes turned for the worse. He spent the 1650s on his estates at Newbattle Abbey and sold Ancrum in the mid-1660s. He died at Newbattle in October 1675.


The village of Ancrum, near Jedburgh in Roxburghshire, lies on the Ale River or Water near its conjunction with the River Teviot. The old Peel Tower, built in the mid-16th Century by Robert Kerr of Ferniehurst, was much improved in the 17th Century and named Ancrum or Ancram House but it burnt down in 1873. The wooded parkland survives and the outlines of a series of walled enclosures can be seen on google earth across the river just north of the village. If Sir Robert Ker's plans had been completed by his son William it would have been a Paradise in Scotland.


Clearly this magnificently coloured copy, in its bespoke binding with its copy-specific references to grapevines and summer fruits in the decoration to the covers and the gauffered edges must have been commissioned in London by Sir Robert Ker, Earl of Ancram, for his son William, Earl of Lothian.


The published Correspondence of Sir Robert Ker, First Earl of Ancrum, and his son William Kerr, 1st earl of Lothian ed. David Laing (2 vols., 1875) consists not only of letters between father and son but also other correspondents, and contains several references to books and binding, including a list of books and paintings purchased by the Earl of Lothian on his Embassy to Paris in 1644 (Appendix IV) and an account of the library at Newbattle Abbey (Appendix V). 


Given by the Earl of Lothian to his 6th (of 9) daughter Lady Henrietta (Kerr) Scott (1653-1741), wife of Sir Francis Scott (1645-1712), 1st Baronet, of Thirlestane, M.P. for Selkirk (1669-74, 1685-6, 1693-1702); with her ink inscription at the head of the front flyleaf: "This Book was given to me by the Earle of Lothian my father Henriette Scott" and with a late 17th-century Lothian armorial bookplate on the verso of the title-page with motto "SERO SED SERIO" and her ink initials "H: S:" added in the compartment below; the bookplate (without her initials) at the foot of the final page and her ink signature "Henriette Scott" at the head of the rear pastedown. Her son, Sir Francis Scott (d. 1725), 2nd Baronet, married Elizabeth Brisbane, Mistress of Napier, and their son Sir Francis Scott (d. 1773), 3rd Baronet, succeeded her in 1702 as 6th Baron Napier of Merchistoun and changed the family name to Napier. 


It is not clear how, but the book passed by descent to a very distant cousin:


Henry Scott (1746-1812), 3rd Duke of Buccleuch (from 1751) & 5th Duke of Queensberry (from 1810), with his initial "B" below a ducal coronet in gilt at the head of the front cover. By descent to: Walter John Montagu-Douglas-Scott (1894-1973), 8th Duke of Buccleuch & 10th Duke of Queensberry (from 1935), with his ink gift inscription: "To Rina/ with love B./" to:


Rina Ehrman, née Bendit (1892-1972), wife of Albert Ehrman (1890-1969), dealer in industrial diamonds, founder of The Broxbourne Library of early printed books illustrating the spread of printing (sold by his son John Ehrman at Sotheby's in 1977) and historic bookbindings (donated to Bodley by John Ehrman), and, like the Duke of Buccleuch, a member of the Roxburghe Club of bibliophiles. Later ink gift inscription below: "To Tom/ with love D/ 2004" (unidentified, but "by descent to the present owner" - Sotheby); anonymous sale, Sotheby, 15/5/2018, lot 410.





Stock Code: 229524

close zoom-in zoom-out close zoom