Hill.   Sir John     - Rare large paper copy with 75 hand-coloured plates.
The British Herbal
AN HISTORY OF PLANTS and TREES, NATIVES of BRITIAN, CULTIVATED FOR USE, OR RAISED FOR BEAUTY. By JOHN HILL, M.D. LONDON: Printed for T. Osborne and J. Shipton, in Gray's-Inn, J. Hodges, near London-Bridge; J. Newbery, in St. Pauls Church-Yard; B. Collins, And S. Crowder and H. Woodgate, in Pater-noster-Row. MDCCLV1.
FIRST EDITION. Very large folio. 475x295mm. Marbled end-papers and front and back paste-downs. 1fep Frontispiece (hand-coloured allegorical full page engraving showing the "Genius of Health receiving the tributes---") Title page with red and black text and a coloured vignette (praised and illustrated by Henrey 11) 2pp dedication with coloured arms of the Earl of Northumberland flanked by the lion and the unicorn. [1] 2-533. 3pp index. 1fep. With 75 plates of multiple botanical and herbal specimens, all delicately coloured by a contemporary hand. A large paper copy. Possibly original full dark brown calf boards with faded double gilt lined border. Spine in same dark calf, raised with faded gilt. Gilt lettering in one compartment. Overall slightly rubbed but nicely re-polished. Frontispiece edges sometime expertly restored without loss or affecting the coloured engraving. Title page lightly dusted with a 1" light brown stain not affecting text. Small 1"sq. old sellotape mark on p79 not affecting text. The last four pages lightly browned with page repairs not affecting text. Very neat contemporary manuscript notes in margins throughout referring to several plants names and perhaps positions in the garden, ownership inscription on blank side of frontispiece of Solomon Ackroyd. Overall a nice bright copy in its original condition.
- Sir John Hill MD (1716?-1775) was thought to have been born at Peterborough in 1716. As a boy he was apprenticed to an apothecary. He tried to increase his profits by studying botany and was employed by royalty to arrange their gardens and collect dried plants. He was also considered to be a "miscellaneous writer" and published plays and small periodicals. He founded such journals as the British Magazine. He was ultimately responsible for penning over 70 books and hundreds of articles on almost all subjects of interest. Hill contributed many articles to the Supplement to Mr. Chambers's Cyclopaedia, or Universal Dictionary of Arts & Sciences. During the 1750's he obtained a diploma of medicine from the University of St. Andrews. In 1756 he published The British Herbal: An History of Plants and Trees Natives of Britain, Cultivated For Use, or Raised For Beauty. This was the 26th book he had published. Later, in 1759, he commenced publication of The Vegetable System and for the next sixteen years, he was occupied in bringing out this monumental, 26-volume work containing sixteen hundred copper plate engravings representing twenty-six thousand different plants. It was not to be completed until just before his death in 1775. Sadly, as with many undertakings of this magnitude, the money ran out, and Hill turned his hand to quack medicine. Hill applied himself to the preparation of various herb medicines such as 'the essence of waterdock', 'tincture of valerian', 'pectoral balsam of honey', etc. He thus made a considerable sum of money which he put back into his work. Hill also obtained appointments to such prestigious positions as Superintendent of the Royal Gardens at Kew & Gardener of Kensington. He died of gout, (a disease for which he professed to have an invaluable cure), on 21st Nov. 1775. Some of his botanical works are considered classics. The British Herbal is much rarer than John Gerard's 'Historie of Plants' and is a work of veracity and vitally important for modern botanical nomenclature in that, not only did Hill attempt to name and categorize the flowers and herbs which grow in Britain, but he classifed them on the forms of the corolla and gynoecium and criticised the Linnaean system. Henrey 799; Lowndes vol II, 1070. (Sophie Schneideman Cat.5. Feb.09)

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Antiquarian category
ref number: 10986