BESLER, Basil (1561-1629)
Fructus Artifchochi [Italina Artichoke Head]
Eichstatt: 1640, 2nd edition. Hand-coloured engraving. Sheet size: 20 1/2 x 16 3/8 inches.
Basil Besler published his "Hortus Eystettensis", the earliest large folio botanical, at Eichstatt near Nuremburg, in 1613. He worked on the drawings for the 374 copper engravings over a period of sixteen years from the plants in the garden of Bishop Johann Vonrad von Gemmingen, his patron. Depicted in this florilegium were flowers, herbs, vegetables and "exotic" plants such as tobacco and peppers.Besler was, in modern terms, a botanist and horticulturalist, in medieval terms, he was a healer. He and his brothers were familiar with real and alleged medicinal properties of the different plants. Besler had the good fortune to have lived at a time when exotic plants were being shipped to Europe from all over the world. The garden that he organized and illustrated for his patron was both ornamental and experimental, and the large book he had engraved after his drawings was unique. The prints, made by a team of master engravers, are strong and exquisitely done.