Elizabeth Blackwell. “Round Birthwort.” Plate 256 from A Curious Herbal. London, 1737-1739. 11 3/4 x 7 3/4 (platemark). Engraving with original hand-coloring. Very good condition.
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An original antique print by Elizabeth Blackwell, one of the most famous early eighteenth-century botanical illustrators. Mrs. Blackwell lived a memorable life, having produced her charming Curious Herbal (1737-9) to get her decidedly unpredictable husband out of debtor’s prison. As the story goes: “…she took a lodging near the Chelsea Physic Garden and set about making the drawings and engravings which have made her famous. From his prison cell Alexander assisted with the text; and so successful was their joint venture that two years later he was released.” (Wilfrid Blunt, Art of Botanical Illustration, p. 136) Unfortunately the story does not end here because Mr. Blackwell was subsequently arrested for treason in Sweden and executed.
Still, Elizabeth Blackwell’s appealing prints live on to remind us of her remarkable story, as well as existing in their own right as an important part of the herbal tradition being the first English botanical series and the first to be hand colored. This is a fine example of this charming and fascinating series of botanical prints.