Thursday, December 31, 2009


Today's find at the local antique store, for your viewing pleasure ( but not offered for sale).

A hard-to-find 1948 edition of Hearts-Ease:Herbs For the Heart by Mrs. C.F. Leyel, founder of The Herb Society of the United Kingdom.

I especially love the dedication:

This book is dedicated to the memory of Viscount Plumer, who died at the end of the last war. His personal influence created considerable sympathy for herbalists. As Chairman of the Society of Herbalists, he greatly helped the work of Culpeper House, notably in persuading the House of Lords to amend the Pharmacy Act of 1941. The unamended bill would have deprived Herbalists of privileges bestowed by Henry VIII, and Lord Plumer's amendments made the Act, as finally passed, not quite so damaging.

After Mrs. Leyel studied the work of the famous herbalist Nicolas Culpeper, she founded both the Society of Herbalists and the Culpeper shops. The Society maintained its rooms over the Shops on the upper floors primarily for treatment of patients, mixing the necessary herbal medicines on the ground floor. In addition to medicinal herbs, the Culpeper Shops also sold culinary and aromatic herbs.

The services of Mrs. Leyel's friend Viscount Plumer came into play in 1941, when the devastating Pharmacy Act was passed (middle of World War II and the House of Lords was worried about British herbalists, it boggles the mind).

For the next 27 years, the only legal way to obtain herbal treatment in the United Kingdom was to be a member of the Society of Herbalists, now known as The Herb Society.

The cover features the common pansy, and is elaborated on in the introduction:

The affection of the English people for this flower can be measured by its familiar names: 'Leap up and kiss me', 'Call me to you', 'Hearts Pansy', and "Kiss me at the garden gate'.

Shakespeare called it 'Love in Idleness' and 'Cupid's Flower', and in Elizabethan days there seems to have been a prevalent idea that a pansy actually carried the dart of Cupid.

Sir William Bulleyn, another Tudor writer, says: 'Pray God, give the but a handful of heavenly Heartsease, which passes all the pleasant flowers that grow in the world'.

The pansy, though only a herbal simple, has gained the name of Hearts-Ease, because it tranquillizes and puts the Heart at Ease.

One other line from the introduction stands out, as true today as it was in 1948:

This mania for standarizing medicines has done more to retard the development of experimental work on natural remedies than anything else.

Included are fourteen separate indexes: General, Botanical, Familiar Names, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Turkish, Arabian, Persian, Indian, Chinese, Malayan, and Sanscrit.

While this prized edition goes on the shelf next to my other herbal books, I'm still searching for Mrs. Leyel's other volumes.

1 comment:

Adina said...

Definitely a book I would love to peruse!