Arber, Agnes

Herbals. Their Origin and Evolution

  • First edition, first impression of this classic study of early modern herbals, attractively designed and copiously illustrated with engravings from the original texts. From the library of Liberal politician Allen Heywood Bright, with his bookplate and with an autograph letter from the author tipped-in on the front free endpaper: “Dear Sir, I am greatly indebted to you for your kind letter & the information that it contains. I shall try to see the book you mention at the earliest opportunity. The plates in Jouston’s book (which was I believe published by the heirs of Matthew Merian) are not particularly good, so I imagine that they have probably no connection with those in the 1641 ‘Florilegium’ to which you refer. I do not know whether there is the least chance of my book having a second edition, but I very much hope to, since I have already a large number of corrections & additions to make. I should be very grateful if you would inform me of any other criticisms that may occur to you. My present bibliography would need, of course, very numerous additions to make it approach exhaustiveness. I only attempted to mention the most important works. believe me yours very truly, Agnes Arber” with the recipients name at the bottom of the missive “Allen H. Bright Esq”. Though Bright spent most of his career as a politician in the Liverpool area, in later life he took up the study of Middle English books, publishing “New Light on Piers Plowman” in 1928. Some short manuscript notes on loosely inserted slips may be in his hand.

    Botanist and historian of science Agnes Arber (1879-1960) began her scientific career as a research assistant in the laboratory of Ethel Sargent, who greatly influenced her research style and became a life-long friend. Arber earned her first degree at University College London, which had admitted women students since 1878, and then completed a second at Newnham College, Cambridge, earning two Firsts in her Tripos examination, though women were still not considered full members of the student body and were not awarded degrees. From Sargent and her other tutors she learned the new style of botany which “introduced an experimental approach to plant study, including plant morphology and physiology, rather than relying on the former systematic approach” (Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science).

    In 1903 Arber published her first paper and became a lecturer at University College London. She relinquished this position when she married a fellow botanist in 1909 but, rather than giving up her career, established a home laboratory and continued publishing. “Her major study, Monocotyledons: A Morphological Study (1925) was followed by a study of grasses and cereals (The Graminae)... Arber was made a fellow of the Linnean Society in 1908. She also began research in the history of herbals, publishing in 1912 her study of Renaissance and early modern herbals (later enlarged and republished), which became the classic in that field” (BDWS). She also wrote about Goethe’s botany and Nehemiah Grew, and later in life published two volumes on the philosophy of science.

  • ...A Chapter in the History of Botany 1470-1670.

    Cambridge: at the University Press, 1912.

    Tall quarto. Original light green cloth, titles and decorative floral design to spine and upper board in dark green, top edge gilt. Frontispiece and 21 plates, illustrations throughout the text. Bookplate of Allan Heywood Bright. Spine slightly rolled, cloth a little rubbed at the extremities and faded unevenly, endpapers tanned. A very good copy.





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