Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1912. First edition. Original publisher's cloth binding with title to spine and front board. Top edge gilt. Bookplate of the Medievalist Allan Heywood Bright to front pastedown, with accompanying Autograph Letter Signed by the author to Bright tipped in on the front endpaper. With the exception of offsetting to the front and rear pastedowns, the present is a pleasing, neat, and square copy containing the frontis and all 21 illustrated plates.
A leader in the history of herbals, Arber was a fellow of the Linnean Society and a lecturer at Cambridge University in her early career prior to her marriage in 1909. Rather than retiring science for domesticity, Arber established a home laboratory and commenced on the present work, largely considered one of the most important historic studies on herbalism. "Arber's research centered on the form of plants, both living and fossil specimens, for its own sake, and the light it could shed on subjects such as classification and evolution. The main body of her work (which in total included seventy scientific articles and four morphology books) was on the major groups of flowering plants. Her publications were characterized by distinctive diagrams and a thorough grounding in the history and philosophy of botany...The philosophy of plant form not only underpinned Arber's laboratory, but was also reflected in a range of historical and philosophical publications which have had wider and more enduring impact. The first of these was Herbals" (ODNB). Drawing not only on established science but also the views of early humanities scholars, Arber was able to interact with and influence a broader range of scholars. Among these were the owner of the present volume, Allan Heywood Bright, whose most important work centers on Piers Plowman. A work he clearly valued, he marked key illustrations and passages with slips of paper and tipped in a letter from Arber to him. "I am indebted to you for your kind letter and the information it contains. I shall try to see the book you mention at its earliest opportunity. The plates in Jouston's book...are not particularly good, so I imagine that that probably have no connection with those in the 1641 Florilegium to which you refer...I should be grateful to you if you would inform me of any other criticisms that may occur to you," she writes in part. Gracious in her exchange of information and sources, Arber clearly engaged a wider range of readers than botanists. Near Fine (Item #2862)