Saturday, February 16, 2013

Hello everyone! This week, I had to do some scholarly comparisons and evaluation. I got a hint about last week’s post: it was about rosemary’s origin and relation to England. I do have one article, as you saw last week, that informs us that rosemary came to England through Queen Philippa in the 14th century.[1] As noted in the citation, the article was written in 1985 by John H. Harvey. In fact, Harvey has written many articles about the medieval time. Harvey’s training was as an architect, working with his father. After returning from activities in WWII, he began researching, teaching and writing about medieval architecture. His interest turned to medieval plants and gardens however, and he released numerous influential works. We are now, gratefully, indebted to his extensive work in this area.[2]

There is a second article Harvey wrote, specifically on rosemary. In this he says that rosemary “is a native of southern Europe including the Mediterranean region of France.”[3] I could neither confirm nor disconfirm this from the books and articles that I’ve found (in English) so far. However, Harvey did include a helpful footnote that led me to French texts on Charlemagne that might have an answer. Nevertheless, Harvey goes on to tell us that, “there is no satisfactory evidence that [rosemary] was actually grown in England before the reign of Edward III.” He also says that “at least one document says positively that the date of introduction was 1338,” a second manuscript agrees with this date and a “third suggests 1342…”[4] Unfortunately, these texts were not named in his article and I’ve encountered a lot of difficulty finding confirmation elsewhere. (However, rosemary is NOT listed among various plants that came to England via Spain, which Harvey treats in another article from 1993, so we know it didn’t come from there.[5]) I have another article on a rosemary treatise, translated by the important gardener Friar Henry Daniel, that is pending at the library.

There are interesting facts Harvey includes, such as how the flowers of rosemary were most frequently used in medieval medicines. Also, Harvey reports, tradition said that the plant (evergreen, and therefore significant to Christians) grew, “not exceeding Christ’s height.”[6] I would still like to solve this issue of the plant’s origin, if possible, with some more recent articles. So, more on rosemary next time!

[1] John H. Harvey, “The First English Garden Book: Mayster Jon Gardener’s Treatise and Its Background.” Garden History Vol. 13 (1985), 83-101.
[2] Society of Antiquaries of London, “John Hooper Harvey, Hon.Dr.York, F.R.S.L., D.S.G.” Society of Antiquaries. (accessed February 14,  2013).
[3] John H. Harvey, “Medieval Plantsmanship in England: The Culture of Rosemary.” Garden History Vol. 1 (1972), 13-21.
[4] Ibid., 14.
[5] John H. Harvey, “Garden Plants of Moorish Spain: A Fresh Look.” Garden History Vol. 20 (1992), 71-82
[6] John H. Harvey, “Mediaeval Plantsmanship in England.” 

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