William Turner (c. 1508-68), clergyman, physician, herbalist and naturalist, has long been honoured as the 'father of British botany', being 'unquestionably the earliest writer among us that discovered learning and critical judgement in the study of plants'. His Libellus de Re Herbaria (1538) and Names of Herbes (1548) are the first two printed books relating to the British flora which have any claim to originality. Both are now extremely rare books.
Only one copy of the Libellus and less than ten of the Names of Herbes are known to be extant. Probably few copies were printed and their format was too humble to ensure careful preservation; moreover some may have perished during Turner's periods of exile from England when the government banned his theological works and ordered their destruction. They contain the first records of the the occurrence of many plants in England, together with their vernacular English names. Some of the now current vernacular names were here introduced by Turner.
The aim of the present Ray Society volume is to make these rare and historically interesting pioneer works available in facsimile to all who are interested in the British flora. Libellus de Re Herbaria 1538, The Names of Herbes 1548 includes contributions by B. Daydon Jackson and James Britten published in 1877 and 1882; the nomenclature of their identifications of Turner's plants has been revised by J. E. Dandy and W. T. Stearn.