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The Herbalist’s Bible

by Julie Bruton-Seal and Matthew Seal

listed in herbal medicine

[Image: The Herbalist’s Bible]

This beautifully illustrated hardback revisits Theatrum Botanicum, the largest English herbal ever written, by John Parkinson, published in 1640. 

Unlike Nicholas Culpeper’s ever popular The English Physician published in 1653 (now known as Culpeper’s Herbal), and which has been in print ever since, this book is not simply a reproduction of Parkinson’s Theatrum Botanicum, but a reinterpretation for the modern reader. Julie Bruton-Seal and Matthew Seal offer a sumptuous read, with chapters giving insights into John Parkinson himself, as well as a summary of history of the times and brief biographies of other persons relevant to Parkinson, so that the reader’s understanding of apothecaries and medicine in the 17th C is shown in some context and brought to life.  As an example, there is an entire appendix of Apothecary Prices for the year 1639 which reflects the snobbery of the era where the physicians hold expensive imported items to be more impressive than the local herbs sold by the “herbe women in Cheap-side”.  

Theatrum Botanicum was a monumental tome of herbal knowledge, and of the 3800 plants written by Parkinson, the authors choose to comment on 92 herbs relevant to modern herbal medicine.

The herbs are discussed by printing a reproduction of the original text on the left hand page, and the author’s interpretation in contemporary English on the right hand facing page.  The authors discuss Parkinson’s notes, enlarging upon them, and explaining why the herb has the particular medical action as noted by John Parkinson and our modern uses of said plant.

Julie as a medical herbalist, also offers her own experience, and as a couple they comment on some of his recipes which they have reproduced themselves.  Helpfully, there is also a further column of brief notes on each historical page interpreting 17thC English into modern English, or explaining medical knowledge of the time so that the reader gains a clearer understanding of Parkinson’s work. 

The Herbalist’s Bible is appealing to both the layman and the professional medical herbalist.  For the layperson, there are many common hedgerow ‘weeds’ and culinary plants familiar to us now, and the explanations are both simple to understand and with recipe instructions easy to follow and relevant to modern home herbal health care.  For the professional, snippets of new scientific information have been added, and it is always interesting to learn what other herbalists are doing - in this case, the professional reader has the advantage of both a 17th C and a 21st C herbalist. 

The book is richly illustrated with splendid photographs as well as the original wood cuts and would be a delight as both a beautiful coffee table book as well as a reference book.

Further Information

Available from Merlin-Unwin Books and Amazon   

Jo Dunbar-Lane
Merlin Unwin

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