The Herball, or, Generall Historie of Plantes


John Gerard was superintendent of the gardens of William Cecil, advisor to Queen Elizabeth, and was one of the most respected plant experts of sixteenth-century England. He was not the principal author of this famous herbal that bears his name; it is primarily an English translation of Dutch scholar Rembert Dodoen's highly popular herbal of 1554. What distinguishes this book is Gerard’s historically-significant addition of several newly “discovered” plants from North America.

Gerard’s contacts with explorers Walter Raleigh and Francis Drake led to the acquisition of a Virginian potato plant for his own garden. Gerard called the plant a “Virginian potato” to distinguish it from the sweet potato. His 1597 Herball includes the first published description of the potato plant to appear in English and the accompanying illustration was the first picture of a potato that most British people had ever seen.

For many years, the potato was considered a delicacy to be enjoyed only by the rich and it was not until the early eighteenth century that the potato became a staple in the European diet. The impact of the potato on Britain’s cultural history was profound; the potato is credited with supporting the enormous population growth of the nineteenth century and the extensive farming of a single cultivar of the plant eventually led to the blight of 1845 and the Great Irish Famine. All of that history lies far ahead of this second edition of Gerard’s Herball, with its early description of the potato in Britain.

Author/Photographer Gerard, John, 1545-1612
Johnson, Thomas, -1644, editor
Publisher London : Printed by Adam Islip, Joice Norton and Richard Whitakers
Date 1633
Extent [20] leaves, 1630 [i.e. 1634] pages, [27] leaves : illustrations (woodcuts) ; 34 cm
Institution Kent State University
Repository Special Collections and Archives
Provenance/Collection Purchased from Peter Keisogloff Rare and Fine Books, January 20, 1950.
LC Classification Number f QK41 .G3 1633
Portion Digitized pages 926-927
Access Rights This digital object is owned by Kent State University and may be protected by U.S. Copyright law (Title 17, USC). Please include proper citation and credit for use of this item. Use in publications or productions is prohibited without written permission from Kent State University. Please contact the Department of Special Collections and Archives for more information.
Duplication Policy
Temporal Coverage 2nd edition; corrected and expanded from Gerard's original 1597 edition
DPLA Rights Statement
Format of Original book


Curated by Kathleen Siebert Medicus with guest contributors