BESLER, Basil (1561-1629)
Scilla Alba [Maritime squill (sea onion)]; Crocus Vernus flore candido [White crocus]; Crocus Vernus flore violaceo [Lilac crocus]; Hepatica Aurea flore coeruleo [Wild hepatica]; Hepatica Aurea flore rubro [Wild hepatica]
Eichstatt: 1613, 1st edition. Hand-coloured engraving, in good condition except for a 1'' repair to the right blank margin. Sheet size: 22 x 17 1/8 inches.
A spectacular multi-flowered image: the essence of spring represented in a beautifully composed image from the first edition of the greatest botanical work from the pre-Linnaean era.
Basil Besler published "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 using the plants in the garden of Bishop Johann Conrad von Gemmingen, his patron. Depicted in this florilegium were flowers, herbs, vegetables and newly discovered plants such as tobacco and peppers. Besler was, in modern terms, a botanist and horticulturalist, and he was familiar with real and alleged medicinal properties of various plants from medieval lore. Besler had the good fortune to live 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.