Elizabeth Blackwell's A Curious Herbal is as remarkable for its groundbreaking nature-the first herbal tome to be illustrated by a woman-as for the unusual circumstances under which it was created. Blackwell's husband, of dubious character and in debtor's prison, had left her in dire straits. Relying on her business instincts and early instruction in art, Blackwell (Scottish, c. 1700-1758) supported their family and secured his release with money earned by sketching plant specimens, engraving them on copper, hand-coloring the printed images, and marketing them in weekly installments to botanists, physicians, and apothecaries. The thirty-two illustrations in this calendar were selected from a finely bound copy of A Curious Herbal containing five hundred cuts of the most useful plants, which are now used in the practice of physick, now in the collection of the British Library.
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