The earliest representation of the plant is to be found in Gerard's Herbal, published in 1597.
A writer with the (perhaps assumed) name of Apuleius Platonicus produced a herbal which held its ground till the 15th century at least, and was in the 9th translated into Anglo-Saxon.
Their scanty vegetation is almost wholly herbal; shrubs are only occasional; trees almost non-existent.
In a Chinese Herbal compiled before 1700 both the plant and its inspissated juice are described, together with the mode of collecting it, and in the General History of the Southern Provinces of Yunnan, revised and republished in 1736, opium is noticed as a common product.
Gerarde, in his Herbal (1597), advocates the use of foxglove for a variety of complaints; and John Parkinson, in the Theatrum Botanicum, or Theater of Plants (1640), and later W.
The plant is mentioned under the name Papus orbiculatus in the first edition of the Catalogus of the same author, published in 1596, and again in the second edition, which was dedicated to Sir Walter Raleigh (1599) It is, however, in the Herbal that we find the first description of the potato, accompanied by a woodcut sufficiently correct to leave no doubt whatever as to the identity of the plant.
An ancient Chinese herbal, part of which was written about the 5th century B.C., while the remainder is of still earlier date, notices the seed and flower-bearing kinds of hemp. Other early writers refer to hemp as a remedy.
A crude system, based on the external appearance of plants and their uses to man, was gradually evolved, and is well illustrated in the Herbal, issued in 1597 by John Gerard (1545-1612), a barber-surgeon, who had a garden in Holborn, and was a keen student of British plants.
A second edition of the Herbal was published in 1636 by Thomas Johnson, with a different illustration from that given in the first edition, and one which in some respects, as in showing the true nature of the tuber, is superior to the first.