Theatrum Botanicum:The Theater of Plants, or, An Herbal of a Large Extent

by John Parkinson (1567-1650)

Considered the last English herbalistduring the botanical renaissance, John Parkinson was an apothecary to JamesI and botanist to Charles I. Charles I gave him the title of 'BotanicusRegis Primarius.' Parkinson owned a famous garden in Long Acre, Londonwhere both Thomas Johnson and the Hampshire botanist, John Goodyer, gatheredseeds.

The earlier of Parkinson's two well-knownworks, Paradisi in Sole Paridisus Terrestris of 1629, was an importanttreatise on horticulture. The work contained directions for the plantingand treatment of a garden with descriptions of many of the plants cultivatedat the time. It was within this work that his intentions of creating anherbal were revealed. In addition to the three parts of Paradisus,the flower garden, the kitchen garden, and the orchard garden, he had hopedto produce a fourth part entitled 'A garden of simples.'

Due to the popularity of ThomasJohnson's edition of Gerard's Herball, Parkinson's planned herbaldid not appear until 1640. Titled Theatrum Botanicum: The Theater ofPlants, or, An Herbal of a Large Extent, it was larger than expected.The herbal was a compilation of botanical writings including the unpublishedwork left by de l'Obel after his death. The Theatrum botanicum containstwenty-eight new species never previously mentioned before. Two of themore famous plants include the strawberry tree and the lady's slipper orchid.

Images from Theatrum Botanicum


To preserve Parkinson's herbal at the Cushing Memorial Library,a separate box has been made to store the book.

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