BIROn - Birkbeck Institutional Research Online

    A curious undertaking: Elizabeth Blackwell’s collaborative making of an illustrated herbal in Georgian London

    Tyson, Janet Stiles (2021) A curious undertaking: Elizabeth Blackwell’s collaborative making of an illustrated herbal in Georgian London. PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

    [img] Text
    Tyson thesis 04 Jan 2022.pdf - Full Version
    Restricted to Repository staff only until 3 March 2024.

    Download (182MB)


    Published in London in 1737 and 1739, A Curious Herbal was the first English book about medicinal plants that was written and illustrated in conformation to then-advanced scientific tenets. This important work of medical science was published in two folio volumes, and contained 500 etched illustrations of plants and 125 pages of engraved explanatory texts. Its contents were printed and sold in weekly instalments or fascicules, over a period of roughly four years. Because Elizabeth Blackwell (1707?-1758?) was its illustrator and writer, the book also was and is famous as the first commercial herbal to be produced by a woman. However, published accounts of those inextricably paired subjects have tended to be repetitive and less than factual, particularly with respect to Blackwell, who still is treated more as a mythological heroine than as a historical figure. This thesis has used new evidence to expand, clarify, analyse, and correct those accumulated narratives. It has applied varied methodologies, including archival research and network analysis, and perspectives from gender and material culture studies to address Blackwell and the Herbal in terms of their social, economic, and cultural contexts. Direct examination of about sixty copies of the work was an important part of archival research, with the overall mix of approaches allowing the Herbal to be presented as the historically unique product of many hands and minds. In addition to Blackwell, they included botanists and printers who contributed to the work’s intellectual and material content, and Herbal owners who modified it to fit their own perceptions of its purpose. In closing, this research has presented new possibilities for investigations into book history, gender studies, and other disciplines. But above all, it recognises Blackwell for successfully navigating Georgian cultural norms, and for synthesising information in ways pictorial and written, to produce the substantive contribution to knowledge that bears her name.


    Item Type: Thesis
    Additional Information: Thesis not currently available (embargoed) JLK 03/03/2022
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 15 Feb 2022 15:56
    Last Modified: 03 Mar 2022 16:51


    Activity Overview
    6 month trend
    6 month trend

    Additional statistics are available via IRStats2.

    Archive Staff Only (login required)

    Edit/View Item Edit/View Item