English Herbals
English Herbals

The Exhibition section quotes extensively from contemporary accounts of the properties and ingredients of drugs, drawing on English-language herbals from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries. At the beginning of this period, English was not a scholarly language and early authors and translators vigorously defended their use of the vernacular.

Rembert Dodoens, translated by Henry Lyte, A Nievve Herball, or Historie of Plantes (London, 1578):

To the friendly and indifferent Reader

... the good and vertuous Phisition, whose purpose is rather the health of many, then the wealth of him selfe, will not (I hope) mislike this my enterprise, whiche to this purpose specially tendeth, that euen the meanest of my Countriemen (whose skill is not so profounde that they can fetche this knowledge out of strange tongues, nor their habilitie so wealthy, as to entertaine a learned Phisition) may yet in time of their necessitie, haue some helpes in their owne, or their neighbours fieldes and gardens at home.

William Turner, The first and seconde partes of the Herbal of William Turner, Doctor in Phisick, lately ouersene, corrected and enlarged with the Third parte (Cologne, 1568):

The Prologe
... Other will thinke it vnwysely done ... to set out so muche knowledge of Phisick in Englyshe. for now (say they) euery man with out any study of necessary artes vnto the knowledge of Phisick, will become a Phisician ... the potecaries ... the olde wyues, that gather herbes ... the grossers ... Did Dioscorides and Galene gyue occasion for euery old wyfe to take in hand the practice of Phisick? ... Were they hynderers of the study of liberall sciences in greke, because they wrote their workes of Phisick in ye greke tong? If they gaue no occasyon vnto euery old wyfe to practyse physike, then I gyue none. ... if they were no hynderers from the study of lyberall sciences, then I am no hynderer wryting vnto the English my countremen, an Englysh herball.