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John Gerard

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John Gerard

by William Rogers, after Unknown artist
line engraving, published 1598
7 3/8 in. x 5 7/8 in. (186 mm x 149 mm) paper size
Purchased with help from the Friends of the National Libraries and the Pilgrim Trust, 1966
Reference Collection
NPG D2756

Sitterback to top

  • John Gerard (1545-1612), Herbalist. Sitter in 4 portraits.

Artistsback to top

  • William Rogers (active 1584-1604), Engraver. Artist associated with 11 portraits.
  • Unknown artist, Artist. Artist associated with 6555 portraits.

This portraitback to top

This elaborate portrait of John Gerard appears his Herball, or, Generall Historie of Plants published in 1598. In the early 1600s Gerard's Herball was one of the most widely-owned books, which would have made his likeness very well-known. William Rogers was the first English engraver to attain a high level of recognition.

Related worksback to top

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Bolland, Charlotte, Tudor & Jacobean Portraits, 2018, p. 134 Read entry

    A surgeon by training, Gerard was William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley's chief gardener, and his own garden in Holborn was famous for its collection of trees, fruits and plants. A skilled herbalist, he was also responsible for the physic garden at the College of Physicians. His book on horticulture, The Herball, or, Generall Historie of Plantes (1597), became one of the most widely owned texts in the English language in the early seventeenth century. The core text is an English translation of a herbal published in 1554 by Rembert Dodoens, and the numerous woodcut illustrations of plants had appeared in earlier botanical books; somewhat disingenuously, Gerard refrained from using Dodoens' original illustrations. This portrait was produced for the Herball; the variation in the date between the book and the engraving suggests that there was a delay in publication. Gerard is shown aged fifty-three, holding the flower of the potato plant, which was recorded for the first time in English in this publication, although Gerard mistakenly believed that it originated from Virginia. William Rogers was one of the finest early English engravers. Engravings were more expensive to produce than woodcuts, but the increased availability of craftsmen with the skills to create complex large-scale plates meant that portraits of authors came to be integrated into title pages more regularly.

  • Charles Nicholl, Shakespeare and his Contemporaries, 2015, p. 112
  • Cooper, Tarnya, Elizabeth I & Her People, 2013 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 10 October 2013 - 5 January 2014), p. 198
  • Nicholl, Charles, Insights: Shakespeare and His Contemporaries, 2005, p. 89

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Events of 1598back to top

Current affairs

Death of William Cecil, Lord Burghley. His son, Sir Robert Cecil (later Earl of Salisbury), replaces him as the dominant statesman of the age.
Battle of Yellow Ford: A force of Irish Catholic rebels under Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone routs the English army in Ireland.
Following raids on Dublin, Queen Elizabeth I is granted a loan from the City to finance troops in Ireland under Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex.

Art and science

The playwright Ben Jonson writes the comedy Every Man in his Humour.
William Shakespeare writes Much Ado about Nothing.
The historian John Stowe publishes A Survey of London, a unique account of the architecture, living conditions and society of Elizabethan London.


Henry IV of France passes the Edict of Nantes. Huguenots are granted freedom of worship and political equality with Catholics. The edict concludes the French Wars of Religion.
The Treaty of Vervins ends war between Henry IV of France and Philip II of Spain. Spanish forces leave France and Calais is returned to the French.
Death of Philip II of Spain.
Death of Feodor I, Tsar of Russia. His brother-in-law Boris Godunov seizes the throne.

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