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Caryophyllus Ruber: Elizabeth Blackwell 1749

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  • Author: Elizabeth Blackwell
  • Date: 1749
  • Medium: Hand-colored copperplate engraving
  • Condition: Very good
  • Inches: 9" x 13 1/2" overall
  • Centimeters: 22.86 x 34.29 cm overall
  • Product ID: 001470

From A curious herbal: containing five hundred cuts, of the most useful plants, which are now used in the practice of physick engraved on folio copper plates, after drawings taken from the life / by Elizabeth Blackwell. To which is added a short description of ye plants and their common uses in physick. London, 1737–1739

These plates are from the seminal botanical work A curious herbal: etc., a classic of botanical illustration, published in 1737 in London by Elizabeth Blackwell. Containing 500 plates, this reference book for exotic and curious plants from the New World was the first of its kind, and was commercially successful, by virtue of the beauty of the images, their usefulness, and Blackwell's diligent marketing efforts.

The book was a collaboration with her husband, Alexander, a doctor, who, having been heavily fined for breaking trade laws, wrote the descriptions and other text for the illustrations from debtor's prison. Elizabeth drew the plants from life at the Chelsea Physick Garden, where many were under cultivation. She also engraved the images and text, the latter in script and a striking German typography, and colored the prints. It was with proceeds from book sales that Elizabeth was able to secure her husband's release from prison.

Many of our examples of Blackwell's beautiful work show the marginalia of a latter-day botanist who has updated in longhand the scientific nomenclature of particular plants.