HILL, John. ~ The British Herbal: An History of Plants and Trees, Natives of Britain, Cultivated for use, or Raised for Beauty.
First edition. Allegorical engraving as frontispiece by H. Roberts after S. Wale, engraved title page vignette, dedication page with arms of Earl of Northumberland and 75 plates of about 1500 botanical and herbal specimens. Pp. iv, 536. Large folio, original marbled boards (rather rubbed and worn but not unattractive, rebacked some time ago in quarter calf with red and gilt spine label seemingly from the original binding, spine with some stains Occasional browning and offset from plates, small closed tear to Y2, tear across final leaf repaired with tape without loss of text and chips and tiny tears at very edges of Rrr2, 4C, 5Q2,6C, & 6Q and plate 71 not affecting text or image. In general a good copy with good margins.
Sir John Hill (1714-1775) was apparently from Peterborough. He was trained as an apothecary and set up a small shop in St. Martin’s Lane. He travelled all over the country in search of rare herbs in order to write a herbal but this took longer than he thought. He was a prolific writer, his first publication being a translation of Theophrastuss History of Stones (1746). He edited the British Magazine (1746-1750), and for two years (1751-1753) he wrote a daily letter, The Inspector, for the London Advertiser and Literary Gazette. He also produced novels, plays and scientific works, and was a large contributor to the supplement of Ephraim Chambers's Cyciopaedia. His personal and scurrilous writings made him many enemies, including Henry Fielding, Christopher Smart and David Garrick all of whom attacked him in print.
The Dictionary of National Biography attribute 76 different works the Hill but his most important are his botanical works. In addition Hannah Glasse’s famous manual of cookery was generally ascribed to him (see Boswell, ed. Hill, iii. 285) as it was not readily believed that a woman could have written it. Dr Johnson said of him that he was an ingenious man, but had no veracity. The British Herbal, however, is a work of veracity and vitally important for modern botanical nomenclature in that not only did Hill attempt to name and categorize the flowers and herbs which grow in Britain but he classifed them on the forms of the corolla and gynoecium and criticised the Linnaean system.
This is the famous Oxford botanist George Druce's copy who later praised Hill for his criticisms of Linnaeus.