Gerarde, John

, a surgeon and famous herbalist of the time of queen Elizabeth, was born at Namptwich, Cheshire, in 1545. He practised surgery in London, and rose to eminence in that profession. Mr. Granger says, “he was many years retained as chief gardener to lord Burleigh, who was himself a great lover of plants, and had the best collection of any nobleman in the kingdom; among these were many exotics, introduced by Gerarde.” This is conh’rmed by the dedication of the first edition of his Herbal, in 1597, to that illustrious nobleman, in which he says he had “that way employed his principal study, and almost all his time,” then for twenty years. It appears therefore that he had given up his original profession. Johnson, the editor of his second edition, says, “he lived some ten years after the publishing of this work, and died about 1607;” so that he survived his noble patron nine years.

Gerarde lived in Holborn, and had there a large botanic garden of his own, of which he published a catalogue in 1596, and again in 1599. Of this work scarcely an impression is known to exist, except one in the British Museum, which proved of great use in preparing the Hortus Kewensis of Mr. Aiton, as serving to ascertain the time when many old plants were first cultivated. It contains, according to Dr. Pulteney, 1033 species, or at least supposed such, though many doubtless were varieties; and there is an attestation of Lobel subjoined, asserting his having seen nearly all 6f them growing and flowering. This was one of the earliest botanic gardens in Europe.

The great work of our author, is his “Herbal, or General History of Plants,” printed in 1597, in folio, by John Norton, who procured the wooden cuts from Francfort, originally done for the German herbal of Tabernaemontanus. The basis of the text was the work of Dodonaeus entitled “Pemptades,” for which also probably the | same cuts, had been used. Lobel asserts that a translation of the “Pemptades” had been made by a Dr. Priest, at the expence of Mr. Norton; but the translator dying soon after, the manuscript was used by Gerarde, without acknowledgment. The intelligent reader of the Herbal will observe that most of the remarks relative to the places in which certain plants are found, their common uses, &c. belong to the original work, and refer to the country in which Dodonaeus wrote, not to England. Gerarde is also accused of having been no Latin scholar, and of having made many mistakes in the additional matter which he translated from the works of Clusius, Lobel, &c. He also certainly misapplied many of the cuts. Yet he had the great merit of a practical knowledge of plants, with unbounded zeal, and indefatigable perseverance, and contributed greatly to bring forward the knowledge of plants in England, and his name will be remembered by botanists with esteem, when the utility of his Herbal is superseded. A second edition of Gerarde’s Herbal was published by Dr. Thomas Johnson, in 1636, who, like many other editors, censured his author with great freedom, and undoubtedly made many essential corrections. He was a man of far more learning than Gerarde, although by no means so good a botanist. 1


Putteney’s Sketches of Botany.—Rees’s Cyclopædia.