A "herbal" by definition is a book that is descriptive of plants and the term did not come into use until the sixteenth century. The production of herbals is closely connected to the history of early printing and offers the finest examples of this art and craft. However, the earliest records of ancient Egypt, Sumer and China all reflect a tradition of works of botanicals and their medicinal properties long before printing. The author's survey begins with a work called "De materia medica" written in the first century which is still extant and as the final authority on pharmacy for 1500 years is the most important herbal ever written.
The study of herbals offers a rich history of the culture and beliefs from the folklore and science of medieval and classical worlds.