In 1640, John Parkinson, a London master apothecary, herbalist and gardener, published his life’s work on the healing ‘virtues’ of all the plants he had encountered. Parkinson’s Theatrum Botanicum was a tome of 1,788 large pages and probably because of this it was never reprinted.
In their wonderful new book, well known herbalists Julie Bruton-Seal and husband Matthew Seal have lovingly and expertly created The Herbalist’s Bible, sharing with us their passion and fascinating journey with Parkinson’s book, bringing us the benefit of their modern day herbal knowledge of the plants they have chosen to represent.
Like all of Julie and Matthew’s books, this is a joy to open and be with. It is beautifully presented, with Parkinson’s original drawings and text reprinted on cream pages on the left, and Julie’s stunning photography, herbal wisdom and modern herb uses printed on white pages on the right. Much is revealed in the comparison and somehow, the act of absorbing both, helped me reach a much deeper understanding of the plants.
The book begins with Matthew Seal’s entertaining and thought provoking introduction and research into the life and times of John Parkinson, herbalist to King Charles I. Parkinson’s knowledge was immense and multi-layered and this shines out. He was a plantsman as well as a herbalist, with a passion for observation, science and history. I found it fascinating reading. Julie and Matthew expertly guide us to a modern herbalist understanding and use of each plant. They have a knack of making their text accessible to the beginner and the practising herbalist alike, guiding us to the heart of a remedy, teaching us to think and act like a herbalist. They are excellent teachers! Their text is rich with their experiences, observations, facts and each plant has a well laid out remedy-use section, by both Parkinson and the Seals, which I like. This book has it all!
It makes fascinating reading for anyone interested in plants, herbalism and social history and although the book is packed full of facts and learning, it is easy to read and to absorb the herbal teachings so expertly woven into the text. It is easy to get lost for hours within in its pages – it should come with a warning! It would make a perfect present for anyone you know who loves plants, is learning to use herbal remedies, or is a practicing herbalist. The sheer sumptuous beauty of this book, the twin cream and white pages, the photography, the opportunity to read Parkinson’s words and to learn from Julie and Matthew makes this a treat for the heart and mind.
Glennie Kindred is an author and teacher. www.glenniekindred.co.uk