The Patten Collection of Herbals
and Early Gardening Books
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term herbal, not used until 1516,
denotes a "book containing names and descriptions of herbs or of plants in general, with their properties and virtues." Herbals
can be appreciated not only for their botanical information, but also for the outstanding graphic artistry that enhances them,
for the many styles of expression, and for interesting turns of phrase.
Writers of early herbals were more concerned with curing illnesses than describing plants, and thus these early publications
included remedies not only from the plant world, but also from the animal and mineral kingdoms. It is important to remember
that many of these herbals pre-date the current Linnean botanical classification scheme, which complicates any comparison
with modern plants.