The distinguished French botanist, Edmond Audouit (b. 1833), worked and wrote in a number of fields in the natural sciences but is probably best known for this popular guide to edible and ornamental plants. Starting with an examination of basic plant structures and their functions, Audouit proceeds from family to family, providing concise descriptions and information on seasonality, cultivation, and economic uses. We were delighted to learn, for example, that thyme is much loved by rabbits and goats.
What makes this book a pleasure to page through is the more than 180 engraved illustrations, as well as numerous charming decorative drawings. All are printed in black and white, and many of them have been hand-colored, a widespread practice at a time before color printing was at all practicable. From what we can determine, about a third to a half of the copies of L’Herbier des Demoiselles have been colored in this fashion. The result is a totally captivating book, pleasing to riffle through, even for those who do not know a chrysanthemum from an artichoke.
The book was published in 1847. Our copy is from 1867, apparently the third edition. As was common in France, though some books were published hardbound, many others were issued in paperback, with the clear expectation that owners would then have them bound in a fashion that pleased both taste and pocketbook. This copy was originally a paperback but has since been given a simple functional binding with red fabric front and back and a brown spine. It is quite good looking and securely sewn. Somewhere along the way the frontis illustration was lost, but the book is otherwise intact, sound, clean, and attractive. It has 467 pages, a red ribbon marker, and is rough trimmed on top, bottom, and front.