Biographical/historical: Books meant to distinguish different kinds of plants appear very early in the history of books and their production. Herbals, depicting plants used for healing and those with magical properties, were most often based on the works of the ancient writers, Dioscurides, Apuleius Platonicus, and Pliny the Elder. Preserved in medieval manuscripts, they emerged as a popular category of early printed book. Often they were illustrated with woodcuts, which to 21st-century eyes, may bear little resemblance at all to the named plant as it occurs in nature.
For her A Curious Herbal, Containing Five Hundred Cuts of the Most Useful Plants, Which Are Now Used in the Practice of Physick, Elizabeth Blackwell (1700?-1758) made laborious drawings of the plants in London's famous Chelsea Physic Garden, then engraved them herself. She produced this work in parts, which sold well and helped her obtain her husband's freedom from debtors' prison.