From our archive | Leafing through one of the oldest books in our collection

We've dipped into our archive to find one of the oldest books from the collection (which is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand!)

Published in 1571, this copy of the Historia Plantarum (roughly translated as ‘The History of the Plants’) depicts around 640 different species of flora and where to find them, and is bound in delicate leather with a hand-sewn spine.

Detail from Historia Plantarum, published 1571.

This book came to us via Surrealist artist and collector Roland Penrose, who inherited it from his grandfather. Baron Peckover was a Quaker banker, who amassed a significant library and on his death Penrose was allowed to select some publications. We acquired Penrose’s archive and library in 1995, through which this book entered the collection.

The text itself was intended as a sort of medical dictionary, is written in Latin and is peppered with near indecipherable bits of marginalia.