The Domestic Herbal

Plants for the Home in the Seventeenth Century

Margaret Willes

The Domestic Herbal

Margaret Willes

Distributed for Bodleian Library, University of Oxford

256 pages | 60 color plates | 6 1/4 x 8 1/4
Cloth $40.00 ISBN: 9781851245130 Published August 2020 For sale in North America only

In the seventeenth century most English households had gardens. These gardens were not merely ornamental; even the most elaborate and fashionable gardens had areas set aside for growing herbs, fruit, vegetables, and flowers for domestic use. Meanwhile, more modest households considered a functional garden to be a vital tool for the survival of the house and family. The seventeenth century was also a period of exciting introductions of plants from overseas, which could be used in all manner of recipes.

Using manuscript household manuals, recipe books, and printed herbals, The Domestic Herbal takes the reader on a tour of the productive garden and of the various parts of the house—kitchens and service rooms, living rooms and bedrooms—to show how these plants were used for cooking and brewing, medicines and cosmetics, in the making and care of clothes, and to keep rooms fresh, fragrant, and decorated. Recipes used by seventeenth-century households for preparations such as flower syrups, snail water, and wormwood ale are also included. A brief herbal gives descriptions of plants both familiar and less known to today’s readers, including the herbs used for common tasks like dyeing and brewing, and those that held a particular cultural importance in the seventeenth century. Featuring exquisite colored illustrations from John Gerard’s herbal book of 1597 as well as prints, archival material, and manuscripts, this book provides an intriguing and original focus on the domestic history of Stuart England.


Acknowledgments vii

Introduction 1

Productive Gardens 17

For the Table 57

Small Beer & Strong Liquors 89

A Herbal 112

Health & Beauty 131

Care of Clothes 161

Fragrant Chambers 181

Notes 206

Select Bibliography 216

Picture Credits 219

Index 221

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