First edition, subscriber copy, of the first herbal produced and published in the US, featuring only animals, vegetables, and minerals native to North and South America.
THE AMERICAN HERBAL
"Every family ought to be furnished with this useful work; and you will do well, if you not only inform yourselves, but your children and servants, concerning the natures, virtues, and uses of our American productions."
THE AMERICAN HERBAL was the "first herbal both produced and printed in the United States," meant to provide Americans with a medical guide to their unique natural resources, rather than forcing them to rely on European herbals full of materials they could not obtain (Garrison and Morton). Samuel Stearns, American physician, astronomer, and almanac-maker, endeavored to broaden the colonial understanding of the use of plants, animals, and minerals native to North and South America by including information about "a large number of new medical discoveries and improvements collected from information given by the Indians," as well as Native names.
In the HERBAL's preface, Stearns discusses the state of medicine in America, lamenting the high cost of publishing in the field and the general lack of unity in practice. But he had wider plans for his work: he intended it to be "not only for the use and benefit of the gentlemen of the faculty, but for that of the community at large." Stearns published this book by subscription, and the list of subscribers demonstrates that the "community at large" was interested in his expertise: patrons include physicians as well as laypeople and prominent figures such as Ebenezer Allen (member of the Vermont General Assembly and brother of Ethan Allen) and Joshua Atherton (New Hampshire Attorney General).
Also included in the list of subscribers is Captain Samuel Shepardson of Vermont, who owned this copy. The names of his sons Samuel and Otis are playfully scattered across the endpapers, joined by the lighter pencil name of Lorenzo Dow, Captain Samuel's grandson. These names and the condition of this book attest to the fact that, while the HERBAL was ultimately "not a very profitable venture" for Stearns, it was a source of knowledge for generations of early American families such as the Shepardsons.
Read more: John C. L. Clark, "The Famous Doctor Stearns," Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society vol. 45 no. 2; Fielding H. Garrison and Leslie T. Morton, History of Medicine and the Life Sciences, item 1838.2; Frans A. Stafleu, Taxonomic Literature II, item 12.843
Walpole: Thomas & Thomas, 1801. Full title: The American Herbal, or Materia Medica: Wherein the Virtues of the Mineral, Vegetable, and Animal Productions of North and South America Are Laid Open, So Far as They Are Known, and Their Uses in the Practice of Physic and Surgery Exhibited. 12mo, 7'' x 4''. Contemporary sheepskin binding, gilt-lettered black spine label. , 360,  pages, collated complete. Contemporary ink alphabet practice to front pastedown. Contemporary name "Otis Shepardson" in ink and early name "Lorenzo D. Shepardson" in pencil to front flyleaf. Contemporary ink names "Otis" and "Samuel" in two different hands to rear flyleaf. Binding scuffed, particularly to edges; one small patch of leather loss to each board, also to corners. Leaves with some general soiling and occasional small sections of loss to margins, not affecting the text; endpapers a bit tender, else sound.
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