Leaves Are Winged

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”…


To the frontispiece with our author, Thomas Johnson, holding an emblematic flower …


To the rhinoceros also found there …


The pages explain everything from how beans and lupines aid the suffering.  Like this …


And this …


There’s advice on how to remedy the bites of shrews and sea dragons alike …


It’s a little world within these old pages, and in the end, it’s the age of these herbals that left me wondrous, amazed and grateful.  These books have endured since the seventeenth century.


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.

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This entry was published on April 17, 2017 at 10:42 pm and is filed under flora, libraries. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

One thought on “Leaves Are Winged

  1. What a wonderful book! Any wonder herbal remedies are still thought of with a bit of magic?

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