BESLER, Basil (1561-1629)
Melocactos [Mother-in-law's cushion]; Rosa Hiericontea aperta [Rose of Jericho, unfolded]; Rosa Hiericontea enclusa [Rose of Jericho, folded]
Eichstatt: 1640, 2nd edition. Hand-coloured engraving. Sheet size: 20 5/8 x 16 1/2 inches.
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 from the plants in the garden of Bishop Johann Conrad von Gemmingen, his patron. Depicted in this florilegium were flowers, herbs, vegetables and "exotic" plants such as tobacco and peppers. Besler and his brothers were familiar with real and alleged medicinal properties of the different plants, and they lived at a time when new, unknown plants were being shipped to Europe from all over the world. The garden that Besler 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.