The Domestic Herbal: Plants for the Home in the Seventeenth Century (Hardcover)

The Domestic Herbal: Plants for the Home in the Seventeenth Century By Margaret Willes Cover Image

The Domestic Herbal: Plants for the Home in the Seventeenth Century (Hardcover)


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In the seventeenth century most English households had gardens. These gardens were not merely ornamental; even the most elaborate and fashionable gardens had areas set aside for growing herbs, fruit, vegetables, and flowers for domestic use. Meanwhile, more modest households considered a functional garden to be a vital tool for the survival of the house and family. The seventeenth century was also a period of exciting introductions of plants from overseas, which could be used in all manner of recipes.

Using manuscript household manuals, recipe books, and printed herbals, The Domestic Herbal takes the reader on a tour of the productive garden and of the various parts of the house—kitchens and service rooms, living rooms and bedrooms—to show how these plants were used for cooking and brewing, medicines and cosmetics, in the making and care of clothes, and to keep rooms fresh, fragrant, and decorated. Recipes used by seventeenth-century households for preparations such as flower syrups, snail water, and wormwood ale are also included. A brief herbal gives descriptions of plants both familiar and less known to today’s readers, including the herbs used for common tasks like dyeing and brewing, and those that held a particular cultural importance in the seventeenth century. Featuring exquisite colored illustrations from John Gerard’s herbal book of 1597 as well as prints, archival material, and manuscripts, this book provides an intriguing and original focus on the domestic history of Stuart England.

Margaret Willes is a former publisher and author of several books on social history, including A Shakespearean Botanical.
Product Details ISBN: 9781851245130
ISBN-10: 1851245138
Publisher: Bodleian Library, University of Oxford
Publication Date: August 19th, 2020
Pages: 256
Language: English
"[The Domestic Herbal] is a history rather than a practical guide on the precise uses, planting strategies and the like for household herbs. It should be especially useful for those who have some experience in household gardening and are looking for some inspiration in plants that have previously been planted at home, even if today such home planting seems strange. This study is also of interest to those who want to understand more intimately the household lives of seventeenth-century Europeans (mostly Brits). Thus, this is a good addition mostly for academic libraries."
— Pennsylvania Literary Journal