Elizabeth Blackwell. “Balsamita mas [or] Costus Hortorum” [Costmary or Alecoast.] Plate 98 from Jacob Trew’s Herbarium Blackwellianum Emendatum et Auctum. Nuremberg: Christian de Lavnoy, 1757. Ca. 11 3/4 x 7 3/4. Etchings and engravings by Nicholas Frederick Eisenberger. Original hand-coloring. With some minor spotting. Else, 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. The respect for her work is evidenced by the reissue of her Herbal by Jacob Trew in 1857. This print comes from that German edition.