Basilius Besler, Pl. 352 Canary Islands Arborescent Houseleek, Colchicums, hand-colored engraving, 1613
This week only, enjoy a substantial discount on Pl. 352, Canary Islands Arborescent Houseleek, Colchicums, a 400-year-old botanical engraving of flowering plants from Volume III of Basilius Besler’s Hortus Eystettensis. The Latin names for the plants as listed on the plate are: (I.) Sedum arborescens [Canary Islands Arborescent Houseleek], (II.) Colchicum mixtum Autumnale [Multiflorous Striped Colchicum], and (III.) Colchicum album et rubrum [Colchicum in Leaf and Flower].
This lyrical and balanced composition features a sedum shrub native to Mexico in the center, flanked by a red and white striped crocus (left) and an autumn crocus (right). Each plant is shown in leaf, flower, bulb and root details. In perfect condition, this richly detailed hand-colored engraving is from the first edition, 1613. 22 x 16-1/2 inches.
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.”
$1,900 this week only (list price $3,200). Offer expires 1-8-17.
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 b
etween 1610 and 1612. These were sent to the workshop of Wolfgang Kilian (1581–1662) in Augsburg to be translated by skilled artists into black-and-white drawings that could serve as templates for the engravings that were executed in Kilian’s workshop by a team of engravers. Colorists then carefully hand-colored the engraved plates. 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. Four distinct editions of Besler’s Hortus Eystettensis were published between 1613 and 1713—the deluxe first edition, 1613; first edition 1613; second edition, 1640; and third or jubilee edition 1713. Each edition enjoys its own character and attributes.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.