The Very Curious Herbal Begins...
The first chapter of The Very Curious Herbal recorded live during lockdown 2020 for Chawton House Library's Virtual Garden Festival.
The Very Curious Herbal
The Very Curious Herbal is a multidimensional herbal storytelling project with nearly as many elements as the book it was inspired by.
Elizabeth Blackwell’s 1737 illustrated two-volume work features 500 cuts of plants she observed in Chelsea Physic Garden: ‘A Curious Herbal’; the first herbal created by a woman, to be published.
Amanda Edmiston's new look at this book works in several ways: as an online project, with episodic podcasts and short films which are linked together with interactive prompts within Amanda's facebook group Botanica Fabulousness which you can join here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/botanicafabulousness/
There is also a corresponding, connecting journey, with bespoke, original performance pieces and accompanying workshops, leading participants on an enchanted journey into the extraordinary, verdant, rapidly changing, world of the 18th century.
This interactive, multisensory work by Amanda Edmiston of Botanica Fabula, layers pages from the book, traditional remedies and flavours revealed by the plant collectors, recipe creators and apothecaries of the day with legends, history and folklore adding vivid dimensions to the plants revealed in the pages of this beautiful book, using traditional storytelling techniques.
Each piece is a unique experience specially curated by Amanda to connect with the plants or themes which are significant for your venue or event, relating the often darkly humorous stories of herbs: some delicious, some offering hidden wisdom, some to be afraid of and some we all know and love, that were drawn by Elizabeth Blackwell.
The performance pieces are bringing hidden, historic books, collections and gardens to life for new and treasured audiences.
"It was wonderful to add colour and context to the books and hear stories around the book as a working manual. So many articles concentrate on the ‘tragic’ aspect of Elizabeth Blackwell’s story, this affirmed the importance and beauty of the book. I loved it!"
Curator (Rare Books)
Museums and Special Collections
University of Aberdeen.
The Very Curious Herbal follows the footsteps of Elizabeth from Aberdeen to London, working exclusively with venues which have treasured copies of the beautiful herbal, gardens which have the plants she studied and museums and collections which have connections to her incredible story or fascinating volume of work.
The project aims to highlight the work of this remarkable woman whilst making the magical world of her herbal and collections that connect to it come to life for new and treasured audiences.
Amanda says: “ I’ve loved old herbals since I was a child, I would spend hours in museums peeking into glass cases trying to decipher the fading words on lignin soft pages, vanishing into gardens trying to find the plants I’d seen in the books, experimenting with the remedies they suggested.
As an adult I discovered I was not alone, herbals give people the sense they stand on the edge of a magical garden and I discovered that the way I connected stories and lore, recipes and remedies to the plants in the pages could bring that enchanted world to life, bringing a new relevance and connection to old collections which engaged and excited people of all ages…
The early 18th century was a time of huge change, the witch trials had just come to an end, medicine was changing, new plants were being brought into the country and this time of change, new ideas and increasing awareness of other cultures, still has resonance today, each plant has a story or lesson to offer and this cross-cultural sharing has the potential to still create societal bonds through magical stories and exciting tastes."
The Very Curious Herbal is also gaining momentum as Amanda shares her adventures and insights into her research on social media, you can connect with that by joining in the conversation in her facebookgroup or following the hashtag #CuriousHerbal.
"Thank you for bringing your event to the Ashmolean.
Your being there meant a lot to us and there has been very positive feedback from people who were there...
Many thanks Amanda it was so wonderful to have you there"
Dr Sarah K. Doherty, The Ashmolean Museum 2018.
Amanda can be commissioned to create a bespoke package of events suited to bring a little extra enchantment to your collection and gardens connecting to The Very Curious Herbal project
and if you'd like to speak to Amanda about your very own Curious Herbal event email her at [email protected]
An Introduction to The Very Curious Herbal
Amanda Edmiston of Botanica Fabula, introduces the project and builds a picture of Blackwell...this is the first episode in what will become a magical garden of herbal stories with accompanying interactions and artwork available in the facebook group and here on the Botanica Fabula website.
Dandelion, Piss-en-lit, Swine-snout, Priest's crown, Fortune teller...
A tale or two about the Dandelion.
Taraxacum features in plate one of Elizabeth Blackwell's 'Curious Herbal', so here I share some stories and thoughts about this much-maligned weed. A plant with the power to help us keep going even when everything is working against us. The fairy clock, telling the time and reseeding itself on a puff of wind. A short Nasrudin tale from the Sufi tradition and a traditional Scottish fairy legend, reveal aspects of the often overlooked first plant of Spring. To join in with the interactive elements through the facebook group which you can join here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/botanicafabulousness/
Corn Poppies and a gift to heal the Earth Mother
The legend of the Corn Poppy.
Papaver rheas features in plate two of Elizabeth Blackwell's 'Curious Herbal', its story and nature is that of nourishing and healing sleep, gifted to a mother searching for her child. I recommend you find a velvet soft petal or two and leave them on honey overnight and sip this sleep bringing elixir at bedtime breathing in this story as you dream. The C18th recipes and more are also part of this project available through the facebook group which you can join here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/botanicafabulousness/