Curious Herbal – Elizabeth Blackwell

Today, my friends and “All Fashioned By Nature” partners Darren Sleep and Dominique Nancy did a podcast recording…more to come on this 🙂 It was a great time and a wonderful experience. One of the questions asked brought me to the inspiration of the amazing artist, Elizabeth Blackwell.

Image below is free to download. Makes a lovely piece of art or great for journaling. Click on image to save to your device.

Image free to download to your device.

Born Elizabeth Blachrie in Aberdeen in the early 1700s, the daughter of a successful merchant. She trained as an artist and married her second cousin Alexander Blackwell when she was 27. Her husband seemed to have a talent for being involved in questionable business adventures. He practiced as a physician without formal medical training. They fled to London when he was called into question. In London her husband set up as a publisher – but neglected to undertake the four years of training required. He received hefty trade fines which he was unable to pay ultimately ending up in some sort of debtors’ prison

Elizabeth Blackwell undertook a project to raise money to pay her husband’s debts and release him from prison. Her project was called, A Curious Herbal. She learned that a physicians required a reference book which documented the medicinal qualities of plants and herbs and included illustrations so it could be used to identify the plants. In order to develop the illustrations for the Herbal she examined and drew specimens of plants available in the Chelsea Physic Garden. She also produced the botanical copper engravings, printed and hand colored them.

Her husband’s role in the project was to provide the scientific nomenclature and common names of the plants in various languages and what they could be used for. Sir Hans Sloane provided financial support to publish ‘A Curious Herbal’. In total, the enterprise took Blackwell six full years to complete. She was able to release her husband from prison.  Her husband emigrated to Sweden. He continued his ‘career’ by becoming involved in a a conspiracy to alter the Swedish succession and, as a result, was beheaded on 29 July 1747. It’s too bad she invested her money into this.

She continued to live in Swan Walk and worked as a mid wife until her death in 1758. Her grave is in the churchyard at Chelsea Old Church and she is one of the four names on a plaque in Chelsea Old Church dedicated to the memory of Chelsea women distinguished by their learning and piety.

Such an interesting and difficult life but her creativity is astounding. I find her work inspiring and her story both heartbreaking and incredible.

Hope you have a lovely week!

Much love,

Lisa

17 thoughts on “Curious Herbal – Elizabeth Blackwell

      1. We’ve gotten our COVID shots. We’re going about as we have for the last year, but we see more people venturing out these days. It’s great to see folks more comfortable with others.

        Liked by 1 person

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