Basilius Besler, Pl. 345 Potato; Lemon Thyme; Thyme, Hortus Eystettensis, first edition, 1613, hand-colored engraving
This week only, enjoy a substantial discount on Pl. 345, Potato; Lemon Thyme; Thyme, a stunning 400-year-old botanical engraving of flowering plants from Basilius Besler’s Hortus Eystettensis. A plant native to Peru, the potato,(I) Papas peruanorum, was first grown in Europe after the Spanish conquest of Peru (1532–72). During the age of discovery, sailors who consumed the tubers onboard ship introduced them to India, Japan, and China. In the colonial period, Irish settlers introduced potatoes to North America. During Besler's time, shortly after they were introduced to Europe, the potato plant was prized for the beauty of its blossoms. Besler's graceful and balanced culinary composition is accomplished through a marvelous visual counterpoint between the central subject of the engraving, the comparatively large potato plant with prominently tuberous root and upright stems arrayed with lavender blossoms brightly dotted with yellow stamens, and the subtly colored diminutive leaves and flowers, wispy roots, and delicate stems of the herbs, (II) Serpillum citratum (lemon thyme) and (III) Thymus vulgatior (thyme), that flank it.
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 colored make decorations that remained unrivaled until the publication nearly two centuries later of Thornton’s Temple of Flora.
In perfect condition, this richly detailed, beautifully hand-colored engraving is from the first edition, 1613, approximately 22 x 16.5 inches.
$2,150 this week only (list price $3,200). Offer expires 4-2-18.
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. The Bishop financed this lavish production until his death in 1612. Work on the folio continued under his successor as Bishop of Eichstätt, 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.