Please note that medieval sources are not based on current medical knowledge, and some practices are very unsafe because they recommend what are now known to be poisons as cures. Most of the modern works which reference original sources also give similar warnings.
The following reviews were obtained from the Herb and Garden Guild Mailing List or directly from its members. To get add additional reviews added to this page, please post them to the Mailing List (if you are currently subscribed) otherwise contact the Guild Administrator. If you wrote a review and wish it anonymous or accredited, or even removed please contact the Guild Administrator and it will be updated, removed or replaced as soon as practicable.
The Illustrated Earth Garden Herbal, Keith Smith Lothian Pty. Ltd, Melbourne 1978
This is a very useful book, it not only contains period quotes, but also a very good list of sources and modern notes on growing and using herbs as well. This book is still is print and a must if only for its bibliography. [And that’s not something you hear all the time].
The Medieval Garden, Sylvia Landsberg, British Museum Press, Thames and Hudson, Italy. ISBN 0714120804
An excellent book, plenty of period pictures, quotes and examples given. It contains advice and examples on how to construct a Medieval garden [including details of several reconstructions eg Brother cadfaels garden] are still in print although rare, one to order in.
Medieval Flowers, Miranda Innes, Clay Perry Printed, Kylie Cathie Ltd, Londond, UK, 1997
While not the best book on this topic, it is likely to be one of the books you will come across while researching this topic. It has an abundance of greate photos of plants and gardens as well as some decent period pictures. A good coffee table book.
Medieval Gardens, J.H. Harvey, Batsford, London, 1981. ISBN 0713423951
If you ever see this for sale, grab it, this is the book that most books since use as one of their references. Look for it in university and TAFE libraries where horticulture is taught. Heavy reading but it is full of great and well researched information, one highlight is a list of period plants and which sources mention them.
An Illustrated History of Gardening, Anthony Huxley, Paddington Press, UK 1978
No review yet obtained.
The Seed Savers Handbook, Michael and Jude Fanton, Published by the Seed savers Network, Byron Bay, N.S.W, Australia, 1993 ISBN 0646102265
A useful book for general cultivation of rare vegetable varieties, some information on plant history and origins is given. This is still in print.
Sundials, Theory and Practice, Rene R.J. Rohr Dover Edition published 1996 ISBN 0-486-29139-1
The original French work was published by Gauthier-Villars, Montrougue, France in 1965 under the title “Les Cadrans solaires”. The book covers the history of the sundial, construction and theory. Photos include surviving European medieval sundial (as well as modern) examples, including the inscriptions written upon them in period.
Sundials, Their Theory and Construction. Albert Waugh ISBN: 0-486-22947-5
Covers all sorts of dials, including moondials for gardens, and noon marks.
An Annotated Bibliography by Greth de Trobrigge
Addison, J. The Illustrated Plant Lore: a unique pot-pourri of history, folklore and practical advice. Sidgwick & Jackson, 1985. A fascinating book covering many plants, not just herbs. Black and white illustrations. Contains much information that I have not seen elsewhere. The proofreading was a little unfortunate in places.
Allardice, Pamela. The Scented Garden. Collins Angus & Robertson Publishers, 1992. Well set out, easy and interesting to read. Although this book covers scented plants, there is of course a great overlap with the world of herbs.
Barash,C.W. Edible Flowers from Garden to Palate.
Beeton, Isabella. Household Management. 1861.
Blumenthal, M and C. W. Lorente. 50 Herbs for Health, in ‘Your Guide to Healthy Remedies’, Marianne Harkness, Summer, 1996.
Bown, Deni. Growing Herbs, 1995, Harper Collins. An exceptionally good modern Australian herbal. The illustrations are especially good, showing the parts of the plant separately, to show the seeds, flowers and leaves in close up. This makes it very easy to identify the herbs from the pictures. Not a huge amount of information for each herb, but clear and easily understood. With each herb are listed the varieties which are commonly available, with a short description of each. Definitely worth looking out for.
Brown, A.C. Early American Herb Recipes. Charles E. Tuttle, 1966.
Browning, D.C. Dictionary of Quotations and Proverbs. Octopus Books Limited, 1982. Which made sense of many of the poets and quotes used.
Cary, Walter. A boke of the properties of Herbes called an Herbal & the time Ye herbes, Floures and Sedes shold be gathered to be kept the whole yere, with the vertue of Ye herbes when they are stilled. Also a general rule of al maner of Herbes drawn out of an auncient boke of Phisyck by W.C. British Library Collection, 1562.
Clevely, A. The New Guide to Herbs. London: Anness Publishing, 1995.
Conway, D. The Magic of Herbs, London: Jonathon Cape, 1973. David Conway is a Welsh herbalist of the ancient Myddfai tradition. He gives many specific remedies for particular conditions, and as a practicing herbalist is able to give an indication of the effectiveness of each. There is some explanation of astrological influences given as well.
Cooper, G., Taylor, G. and C. Bousnell, English Herb Gardens Beautiful photographs of some of the most outstanding herb gardens of England. Makes you long for enough garden space and time for the knot garden, the fragrant walk, the walled potager and the chamomile lawn. Not a lot of this is applicable in suburbia, but a lovely book to inspire your dreams.
Fox, Helen Morganthau, Gardening with Herbs for Flavour and Fragrance. Macmillan, 1933; Dover reprint, 1970.
Graham, J. Cooking with Herbs and Spices, Reed Books, 1984.
Grieve, M. A Modern Herbal.  Penguin Books, 1984. THE classic big fat herb book, Grieve covers all aspects of the herbs. She includes many herbs which I do not cover, such as those from the Americas or darkest Africa. Her plant descriptions will have non-botanists diving for the dictionary, and she gives the chemical analyses of the plants where this is known. There is a lot of historical information, including quotes from antiquity, and very detailed medical instructions. There are very few illustrations, all black and white, and although this would make very hard reading as a single work, it is excellent as a reference. There is a very comprehensive index, including common names as well as the scientific equivalent. Some names have of course been changed since her time, and occasionally this can make things hard to find, but it is still an essential for the herb-lovers bookshelf.
Hall, D. The Book of Herbs. Angus and Robertson Publishers, 1972. Lovely book, with black and white line drawings for the most part. It has a wealth of information including much that is not easy to find elsewhere. Worth picking up a copy if you can find it.
Halliwell, B. ‘Common Myrtle’ in Dittany – An Annual Journal of New Zealand Herb Societies, Vol. 6 (1985).
Hampstead, M. The Basil Book. New York: Pocket Books, 1984.
Hartman, H.T., Kester, D.E., Davies, F.T.,Jr, and R.L Geneve. Plant Propagation: Principles and Practices (6th. ed). New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1997. An academic volume, but very useful if you want to explore the ins and outs of propagating almost anything.
Harvey, John. Medieval Gardens. Batsford, London: B.T., 1981.
Hemphill, J and R. Herbs and Spices. Paul Hamlyn, 1978. The Hemphills are the gurus of Australian herbs and spices, and they are particularly involved with the culinary aspects of them. They are prolific writers, and any of their books are excellent references for the interested cook.
Herbology Magazine – the official organ of the Australian Herb Society Inc.
Howard, Michael. Traditional Folk Remedies – A Comprehensive Herbal. Century Hutchinson, 1987.
Krutch, J.W. Herbal. Phaidon Press, 1976. This fascinating book has a description of many different plants, and full-page illustrations from the herbal of Mattioli (first printed in 1544). Well worth a look.
Langton, W. My Book of Herbs. Kangaroo Press, 1990. This is a small publication by Wendy Langton, a member of the Herb Society of South Australia, though unhappily before my time. There are good descriptions and information about many popular herbs, and it is especially valuable to South Australians. Local knowledge is a good thing.
Leonard, J. (ed). Seven Centuries of Poetry in English. Oxford University Press, 1988.
Lestrange, Richard. A History of Herbal Plants. Angus and Robinson (U.K.) Ltd, 1977. A very useful book, illustrated in black and white. The herbs are listed by genus name, which can make it a challenge to find a particular herb at times. He quotes freely, especially from Gerard and Culpeper, and has much useful information about the history of the herbs. This was a valuable find for me.
Leyel, C. F. Herbal delights – Tisanes, Syrups, Confections, Electuaries, Robs, Juleps, Vinegars, and Conserves. Faber and Faber, 1950 Many herbs are covered in this book, and there is much poetry and many recipes to keep any herb-reader content.
Kamm, Minnie Watson. Old-Time Herbs for Northern Gardens.  Dover Edition, 1971.
Mabey, R. The Complete New Herbal. 1988.
McLeod, K and J. The Cottager. Various Issues, late 1980s – early 1990s. Written from a herb nursery in the Blue Mountains, I believe, the articles cover the history, cultivation, cooking, folklore and magic associated with herbs. They have grown many of the plants that they write about, and know the plants very well indeed. I found a lot of fascinating material in these magazines not covered anywhere else. As far as I know, the magazine is no longer in print. I was lucky enough to find a large stack of old issues at a second-hand market.
Manniche, Lise. An Ancient Egyptian Herbal. Recently released in a second edition, this book gives a very different perspective on early herbal medicine. The Egyptians were very expert in their time in medical practice, although there was a great deal of superstition and magic intermixed with their herbal healing. Interesting reading.
Mason, John (ed). More Gardening with Herbs: Australian Garden Guide Series. Auburn, NSW: Express Publications, 1993. A very clearly set out guide for Australian conditions, with the herbs described in a tabular fashion, making it easy to find useful information about heights, seasons and uses.
Messegue, M. and M. Peter. A Kitchen Herbal.
Michalak, P.S. Lothian Successful Organic Gardening – Herbs. Thomas C. Lothian, 1995. An excellent Australian reference book for the herb grower. there are excellent chapters on herb garden design, cultivation, propagation and uses of herbs. The guide to individual plants has a colour picture for each herb, and the information is presented very concisely in note form.
Morton, J.F. Herbs and Spices. A Golden Guide. New York: Golden Press, 1976
Neil, Morag (ed). Kitchen Herbs and Spices. London: Treasure Press, 1990. This was originally published in Poland, and has been translated. The information on each herb is brief, with a full-page illustration. The opening chapters are particularly interesting, covering a range of herb preparations and spice mixtures, with lots of background on cooking herbs and spices around the world.
Northcote, Lady Rosalind. The Book of Herb Lore (formerly The Book of Herbs) (2nd ed.). Dover Reprint, 1912. May Dover Books be blessed. This is a mine of information on the folklore and uses of herbs. A charming little book.
Painter, G. and E. Power, A Garden of Old Fashioned & Unusual Herbs. 1982.
Painter, G. The Herb Growers Handbook for Australians. David Bateman Ltd, 1993. A very useful book for gardeners. It includes Australian native herbs as well, which is a bonus. Gillian Painter covers propagation, planting, container growing and horticulture basics. The herbs are then divided into sections, according to their uses and growing requirements, which makes the book very useful for designing a herb garden. Tables in the back give a quick reference for the requirements of each herb. There are some line illustrations, and a few pages of colour illustrations, which are well chosen to be useful for identification – a sticking point for some plant books.
Port, M. ‘Evening Primrose’ in Dittany, An Annual Journal of New Zealand Herb Societies, Vol. 6 (1985).
Potterton, D. (ed). Culpeper’s Colour Herbal. W. Foulsham, 1986. I have to confess that I was wary of this book at first. Some authors are happy to attach the name Culpeper to almost any book about old herbs, in the same way as anyone can call a book of old recipes ‘Mrs. Beeton’s’. May they be struck down by the gods of truth in publishing. After reading a lot of cross references, I was pleasantly surprised to find that, although the illustrations are modern, the text is very complete and keeps well to the original – Culpeper’s The Complete Herbal of 1649. Modern herbal uses are given for each plant, with some pharmacological background, which rounds out the text nicely. Culpeper was an enthusiastic astrologist, and even his contemporaries thought some of his ideas far fetched. Many herbs are covered, and the illustrations are clear and useful.
Powell, C. The Meaning of Flowers. London: Jupiter Books, 1977. This book covers the Victorian flower meanings, whereby a small posy can pass a complex and subtle message, hopefully invisible to one’s chaperone. The whole study of plant meanings seems a very tedious business, and has very little value unless the recipient of a posy is equally well versed. That being said, it is interesting to know the associations belonging to our favorite flowers.
Purchon, N. Herbcraft – A Complete Guide to the Cultivation and Use of Herbs. Hodder Headline Australia Pty. Ltd., 1995. A very beautiful and useful book, with many colour illustrations. It contains a lot of information on growing herbs, remedies, cosmetics and aromatherapy, and cooking. There are many ‘quick reference’ pages, very useful for planning projects. Once again, it’s nice to have books which are written for Australian conditions.
Quinche, R. and E. Bossard. Herbs – from the Garden to the Cooking Pot and its place in cookery, wine, medicine and cosmetics. W. Foulsham, 1974. Everything it says, and more. Good sections of planning a herb garden and choosing your plants, although from an English perspective. Lots and lots of recipes for everything from potpourri to soup. The herb descriptions are accompanied by black and white illustrations, and are concise but full of information. There are sections which cover apothecaries, the herb collectors of old, commercial farming, and the history of herbalism, which makes fascinating reading. The is a full index of common names, and even a section giving the herb names in five languages, should you be interested to know that a Calendula is Dotterblume in Germany. Worth hunting for.
Reid, S. A Practical Step-by-step Guide to Herbs for the Home and Garden (2nd ed). Cornstalk Publishing, 1991. A very good comprehensive herb book written for Australian conditions. One section covers the herb-lore for each herb, arranged alphabetically, and in a separate section she gives many delicious-sounding recipes. Cultivation information is covered in three large tables – one for propagation, one for ‘herb production’ and a third indicating useful companion plants. There are also sections on potpourri, cosmetics and the meanings of various herbs and fruits. Overall, a good book to look out for.
Rohde, E.S. The Old English Herbals. , Dover edition, 1971. A scholarly study of the early herbals, with descriptions of their contents, and a lot of background information on each. Not many illustrations unfortunately. Many herbals copied information from each other, so this is an aid to tracing the origins of particular ideas through history.
Rubatzky, V.E. and Mas Yamaguchi. World Vegetables: Principles, Production, and Nutritive Values (2nd ed). Chapman and Hall, 1996. A valuable textbook on the production, horticulture and nutrition of vegetables, covering a very wide range of different vegetables. Useful for those with a professional interest in these areas. I was surprised by the number of basic grammatical errors, though Ð especially in an academic publication in its second edition. These errors made it a bit irritating to read.
Schafer, Violet. Herbcraft. San Francisco: Yerba Buena Press, 1971. An interesting book. Very, very hippie.
Smith, K.V. The Illustrated Earth Garden Herbal (revised edition). Thomas C. Lothian, 1994. Lots of wonderful reproductions of medieval herb illustrations. Many original references, and a lot of information about old herbals with plenty of leads for further study. Handsomely presented, and is still in print. The modern commentary is useful, but not very organised, and occasionally misses important cultivation details. Definitely worth hunting for.
Stuart, D. and J. Sutherland. Plants from the Past – Old flowers for New Gardens. 1987. A very attractively illustrated book, containing a lot of information on historical gardening. Unfortunately from my point of view, there were not a lot of herbs represented, but still well worth a look if you can find it.
Talalaj, S. and A.S. Czechowicz. Herbal Remedies – Harmful and Beneficial Effects. Melbourne: Hill of Content Publishing. This is a work of modern scientific medicine, probably aimed at the general practitioner who wants to know more about what their patients are taking. I used this mostly so that I could provide warnings about any of the herbs which modern medicine considers could be dangerous. It was pleasantly surprising that most remedies, even if not particularly beneficial, are at the very worst harmless. If herbal medicine is your particular interest, visit a medical bookshop, which will contain a number of these works, giving you the most up-to-date information about the positive and negative aspects of herbal treatment. Depending on your background, you may find some of the pharmacology and chemistry too technical, but there will be some written for the non-specialist, which are reasonably easy to understand.
Talbot, Rob and Robin Whiteman. Brother Cadfael’s Herb Garden: An Illustrated Companion to Medieval Plants and their Uses. Little, Brown and Co., 1996. A niche market book, this covers all the plants which are mentioned in the ‘Brother Cadfael’ books written by Ellis Peters. This book shows the kind of devotion normally associated with Star Trek fans. Scary, in a way. However, the plants are well presented, with a good amount of information about their cultivation and uses. I don’t, however, get the impression that the authors have grown the plants themselves, as I found a number of places where the information was definitely inaccurate. A very attractive coffee table book.
Webster, Helen Noyes. Herbs for use and for Delight selected by Daniel J Foley, an anthology from the Herbarist, a publication of the Herb Society of America. 1935 drawings. Mcdonald and Company, (Publishers) Limited, 1974.
Wickham, C. Common Plants as Natural Remedies. 1981.
Wishard, A. M. Herb Talk. Sweet Annie Herbs Inc., 1996. This one comes from the US. Sweet Annie Herbs apparently supply teas and herbal remedies, and this volume comes in ring-bound form, probably so that pages can be added periodically. It describes various herbal remedies, arranged by use – so the gastric medicines are together, skin treatments, and so on. The information is realistic and sensible, and useful to those who are interested in further reading about herbal medicine.