Basilius Besler, Pl. 342 Downy thorn apple, Goosefoot, Green dragon, Hortus Eystettensis, Deluxe edition, 1613, hand-colored engraving
This week only, enjoy a substantial discount on Pl. 342, Downy thorn apple, Goosefoot, Green dragon, a 400-year-old botanical engraving of spring-flowering plants from Basilius Besler’s Hortus Eystettensis. The botanical names engraved on the plate are: (1) Stramonia; (2) Halimus; and (3) Botris Dracontie maior.
The deluxe first edition is by far the rarest and finest of the Besler editions. It is printed on an extremely fine laid paper, which is of superior quality to the other Besler editions. It is white in appearance and has a watermark. There are three possible watermarks that can be found. Predominantly, the deluxe edition can be identified by the presence of the “grapes” watermark, which can be seen on examination of deluxe edition prints.
It is generally recognized that the deluxe edition was the one which was intended to be sold as a hand-colored set. The paper quality is very high and there is an absence of Latin text on the verso of the sheet. The engraved print quality is crisp, but still exhibits the subtlety one expects to see in a first edition print made from plates that have not become worn from use.
Wilfred Blunt, noted author of The Art of Botanical Illustration an Illustrated History, writes of the Besler Florilegium, “The designs are really impressive, and the invention rarely flags ; the rhythmic pattern of the roots, the calligraphic possibilities of lettering , are fully explored and utilized ; and the dramatic effect of the whole is enhanced by the noble proportions of the plates, which, when coloured make decorations that remained unrivaled until the publication nearly two centuries later of Thornton’s Temple of Flora."
Strikingly beautiful and richly detailed hand-colored engraving from Besler's deluxe first edition, 1613. In perfect condition, approximately 22 x 16.5 inches.
The first large-folio natural history botanical, Basilius Besler’s magnificent work, Hortus Eystettensis (Garden of Eichstätt), is the earliest pictorial record of a specific garden and the oldest of all of the great botanicals. Over 1,000 varieties of flowers are depicted in 367 exquisitely engraved and colored plates.
In 1596, work on the first comprehensive botanical garden devoted to flowering plants in Germany was begun under the direction of the German botanist and physician Joachim Camerarius the Younger. Eight separate gardens were constructed at Willibaldsburg castle, the residence of Johann Konrad von Gemmingen, the Prince Bishop of Eichstätt. Each garden was devoted to flowers of a different country. Exotic flowers were imported from the Netherlands, Americas, and the Ottoman Empire. Upon Camerarius’ death in 1598, the Bishop called upon Basilius Besler (1561–1629), a Nuremberg apothecary, for guidance on specimens for the gardens.
Besler introduced the idea of documenting the vast garden and depicting each plant as it bloomed throughout the four seasons, hence the work is sometimes referred to as the Four Seasons. The Prince Bishop wrote that the Nuremberg apothecary “wishes to have [drawings of his flowers] engraved in copper, printed, dedicated to me and to seek his fame and profit with the book….” Besler worked on the drawings for 16 years, but most of the colored sketches were made between 1610 and 1612. These were sent to the workshop of Wolgang Kilian in Augsburg to be translated by skilled artists into black-and-white drawings that could serve as templates for the engravings which were executed in Kilian’s workshop by a team of engravers. Colorists then carefully hand-colored each engraved plate. The Bishop financed this lavish production until his death in 1612. Work on the folio continued under his successor as Bishop of Eichstäat, Johann Christoph von Westerstetten.
The Hortus Eystettensis is exceptional for many reasons. The first botanical in history to portray flowering plants as objects of beauty, it deviated from non-aesthetic and awkward representations of preceding publications that focused on plants as herbal subjects and set the standard for great flower folios of the following centuries.
For further information or to purchase, please call the gallery at 312-642-5300.