1757 Elisabethae Blackwell Herbal

Value (2003) | $10,000 Auction$15,000 Auction

GUEST:
It belonged to my father, and when my father passed away, my mother had it for a while, and then she gave it to me.

APPRAISER:
Let's take a look inside.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
These herbals, which are very elaborate to produce, very expensive to buy, were probably done for university libraries, important private libraries, amateur botanists, of which there were large numbers, and physicians,

GUEST:
Yeah, that's what I thought.

APPRAISER:
because all the plants in this book are of medicinal use. One of the things that's so unusual about this book-- I mean, there are a lot of herbals that have been published over the centuries-- this one's by a woman.

GUEST:
Right. Elisabethae Blackwell.

APPRAISER:
Elisabethae Blackwell, right. And she was the wife of a physician to the king of Sweden, and she had an interest in medical botany and was obviously a fine artist herself. And this book is the result of her botanical drawings over a long period of time. This is the German edition with the text both in German and in Latin.

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
Published Nuremberg, 1757. And the nice thing about it is the hand coloring here.

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
This was a common way to produce fine illustrated books in the 18th century. And there's gilt here, the lettering is picked out in real gold, watercolor is used for the rest, and the effect is quite beautiful.

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
Let's look at an internal page here. You can tell what that plant is.

GUEST:
Yes, a poppy.

APPRAISER:
A poppy. And what was done is a copperplate engraving, and then a colorist would carefully hand-color the stems, the leaves, the flower.

GUEST:
Mm-hmm.

APPRAISER:
Let's look at another one. A cucumber.

GUEST:
Right.

APPRAISER:
And cucumbers, of course, had medicinal properties in the 18th century. I don't know if they do today. Uh... Now, let's talk a bit about conservation issues.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
Basically, the book is falling apart.

GUEST:
I know.

APPRAISER:
We've had to handle it extremely carefully. A lot of the pages are loose in the binding. Since it's an important and a valuable old book, you need to have it rebound.

GUEST:
Right, okay.

APPRAISER:
You need to spend a few hundred dollars at least to have a good quality binding, have the pages re-sewn carefully.

GUEST:
Right.

APPRAISER:
Do you have any idea what it's worth, even in this condition?

GUEST:
No, no.

APPRAISER:
It might be more than you expect. In this present condition, I would still say it was worth somewhere in the range of $10,000 to $15,000.

GUEST:
Are you serious?

APPRAISER:
Yeah. It's a very important botanical book.

GUEST:
Oh, wow.

APPRAISER:
Some of the better botanical illustrations of the 18th century are right in this book.

GUEST:
Oh. Can't believe it.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Christie's
New York, NY
Appraised value (2003)
$10,000 Auction$15,000 Auction
Event
San Francisco, CA (August 16, 2003)
Period
18th Century
Form
Book
Material
Gold, Paper, Watercolor

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