A test of a good buy for a book is perhaps the number of times you get it down from the shelf over a period of time and search it for references. So on this basis, this must be a book to purchase immediately if you stumble across it as I am always referring to it. This is a well-researched, scholarly and excellently indexed book, which follows the world-wide folklore use of some 750 herbs throughout the ages.
Much of the material for the book was researched, we are told in the introduction, from the John Innes Institute and the libaries of Kew and the Universiy of East Anglia in the UK. Moreover, the text is illustrated throughout with 300 delightful line drawings by Derek Cork. All told, it provides a considerable amount of information in its' 262 pages of botanical notes, the content being presented mainly in the form of references to botanicals used in by-gone times, ranging from the familiar to the obscure.
For example there are monographs on Daemomorops (Dragons Blood Palm), that amazing plant the Skunk cabbage, through to Hernaria (Rupturewort!) and the narcotic Daturas. The book is completed by 15 pages of cultivation notes and a comprehensive bibliography, botanical and ordinary indexes. In an age where some plants have become medically important whilst others have not proven useful, this is a useful light reference to aid further research.
Amazingly, so long after the publication date, the book is still to be found occasionally in London bookshops (at least!) where I have spotted it twice this year.
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© 2000 by Tony Burfield
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