When I went to the library today, my search went awry. The books I wanted were there, but the information I hoped for wasn’t in them. On a whim, I checked another source — an original printing of Johnson’s dictionary, because it was there and I could — which sent me to looking at the early medical volumes known as herbals, guides to plants believed to have healing properties. (This all happened thanks to a rare books librarian willing and able to pull materials as I needed them.)
If you’ve not had the opportunity to peruse an old herbal, they’re marvelous, in every sense.
From the gilt edged pages, this one telling us that “leaves are winged”…
My use of them is different, certainly, than that of the surgeons and apothecaries who created them. The fact that I can turn the pages of a book printed centuries ago, that’s guided the work of others for so long, is its own sort of miracle, one wrought by collectors, conservators, and librarians. It’s thanks to them that these leaves have wings to make their way from then til now, alighting in my curious grasp.