The New Family Herbal - William Meyrick


This eighteenth century herbal aims to educate householders on making their own medicines. It has a full page on each of several plants and trees useful for remedies. Each entry describes the plant, outlines where it grows, and then proceeds to describe how to prepare it for the patient. Gout, urine, coughs, fevers and eye ailments are the most common diseases mentioned, but the range is surprisingly wide.  Moreover, the herb names are wondrous: ale-hoof, goutwort, madwort, horehound, jack-by-the-hedge, to give a small selection. The book's opening pages are given over to lists classifying the plants according to Linneaus, and the final fourteen pages are handpainted copper engraved plates (by esteemed engraver Robert Hancock) illustrating the herbs. It includes a very useful index of maladies, so one can look up one's ailment and find from there find the plants which will treat it. The author, William Meyrick, was a surgeon born in Birmingham about 1770, who practised in West Bromwich and disappeared while in Jamaica in 1790.  


The frontispiece (copper engraved) by Haughton shows a sick man abed. This 1790 printing is a reissue of 1789 edition, which includes errata and additional advertisement pages.


William Meyrick. Birmingham: Printed by Thomas Pearson, Sold by R. Baldwin, Paternoster Row , London. 1790. First Edition.
Bound in tan half reverse calf over marbled paper covered boards. Scuffed and rubbed to extremities, old respine using original red leather title label. Repairs to inner hinges. Strong and solid. Internally clean, some scattered browning here and there. 14 delicately executed handcoloured botanical plates to the rear of the volume. In spite of some cosmetic wear and tear, an attractive and fascinating book.