Kimberly Servello's Embroidery Blog

Kimberly Servello - Pattern Drawer and Embroideress

Saturday, October 8, 2011

On First Looking Into Hatton's Herbal Handbook

No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace
As I have seen in one autumnal face...

John Donne (poet 1572-1631)

Recently a friend recommended I look into a book by Richard Hatton, titled "Handbook of Plant and Floral Ornament from Early Herbals, published by Dover.  For those of you who aren't aware of this book, it's a compilation of woodcut and engraved illustrations from early herbals.  The preface best states the author's intent... 'The object of this publication is to render available to designers and plant-lovers the best of the engraved drawings of plants which have made the Herbals of the sixteenth century famous.'

Many of the early herbals are costly to purchase.  I would recommend this book as a very economical way to add the best of the early herbal illustrations to your personal library.  My edition, printed in 1960, is an unabridged and unaltered republication of the first edition, published in 1909, under the title of The Craftsman's Plant-Book.    I paid around $10 on Amazon for my used copy. Check out used copies on Amazon here

Included are over 1200 illustrations culled from sixteen different herbals printed from 1530 to 1614.  Hatton includes a list of the chief herbals used and references the original work under each illustration.

It's a wondrous design resource.  Many of the illustrations are works of art in themselves and could be used with little or no modifications to create a pillow cover, picture, etc.

The curving vine shown on this Ivy-Leafed Crowfoot is splendid.  A nice delicate design, I can see it worked in colored silks (creme and greens) and goldwork.

A wonderfully autumnal illustration showing nature's abundant bounty.  It could be used 'as is' for a William-Morris-y effect or pruned if something lighter was desired.

This lily of the valley slip is just delightful.  
What a perfect representation.  
It would be lovely worked in speckling technique.

If you've not already done so, I hope I've inspired you to look into early herbals and use the illustrations in your needlework designs.   


  1. Inspiration comes from so many places...

  2. oh, the Tudor Rose one, the Tudor Rose one!!!

  3. Go for it, Elmsley! It is a beautiful pattern - and the typically Elizabethan scrolling floral, too. What medium would you use?


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