Friday, April 20, 2012

Timely Herbals

A printed woodcut illustration of a plant.
The Grete Herball
We tend to think of herbals today as handy guide books for identifying the wild flowers growing in our backyards and woods, but herbals were among the first medical texts. Steeped in folk traditions and medical practice, herbals expounded on the "virtues" of various plants with an emphasis on their effects on the human body.

A printed illustration of a cannabis plant.
Fuchs' Herbal
We have a large collection of herbals dating from 1526 up to the mid-19th century.  For today, we offer images of the same plant from the first printed herbal in the English language, The Grete Herball (London: Peter Treveris, 1526); the more complete De Historia stirpivm commentarii insignes (Basileae: In officina Isingriniana, 1542) by Leonhart Fuchs; and the most popular English language herbal of the 17th century, John Gerard's The Herball (London: A. Islip).

A printed illustration of a cannabis plant.
Gerard's Herbal
To see them ask for QK99.G7 1526, QK41.F7 1542, and QK41.G3 1636

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Hailed as a Traitor, a Tory Writes Home

A page of handwritten text."My Dear Lydia, At last the prospect opens for my return to New Hampshire" writes revolutionary war soldier Samuel Hale in an affectionate letter to his wife. He asks with concern about the health of his family and the education of his son: "How does Jack? Does he read well? I fear you have pushed him forward too fast. Is he healthy? Is he rugged?"

Samuel Hale was a Tory who served with the British army in defiance of his Patriot relatives. He wrote to his wife from Philadelphia on June 9, 1778, less than two weeks before British forces abandoned their occupation of the city. Hale tries to keep a positive outlook on his circumstances: "If they should carry their point the same princ[iples] that made me a good British Subject will make me a peaceable member of their State and I shall submit...."

A page of handwritten text.
Samuel Hale had larger problems, though, than the simple fact of his Loyalist service.  His cousin, Nathan Hale, was hanged by the British army as a spy in September of 1776 and hailed as a martyred hero by the Patriots. Samuel Hale's Loyalist service made him a natural object of suspicion in his cousin’s betrayal to the British, and although no conclusive evidence was ever provided to support his guilt, Samuel Hale was vilified by the press for his suspected treason.

Samuel Hale never mentions Nathan’s death in his letter to Lydia, but he defends his own integrity, asking that his wife: “Make my respects to my old friends and when they decide upon my Honor I hope they will not forget their own.”

Hale's hopes of a swift return to New Hampshire were in vain; he fled to England and died there in 1787, having never been reunited with Lydia and Jack.

Ask for MS 72 to see the entire collection of Hale-Chandler papers.  This letter can be found in Box 4 and a guide to the collection is available in Rauner.