One of the most spectacular 18th century flower prints!

One of the most spectacular 18th century flower prints!




Besler’s Multi-Headed Sunflower: I. Flos Solis prolifer. 

Besler, Basilius  (1561–1629)
Eichstatt 1713

copper engraved plate with recent hand colouring; overall size 51 x 44 cm (cropped); plate size 49 x 40 cm. 3rd edition.  text on verso.

A magnificent print from the ‘Hortus Eystettensis’ [The Garden of Eichstatt], one of the most amazing botanical books of the 17th century ever produced!

Basilius Besler, an apothecary and botanist from Nurnberg, was the curator of the prince bishop, Johann Konrad von Gemmingen, of Eichstätt in Bavaria. The bishop took great pride in the gardens of his palace, Willibaldsburg, which rivalled other magnificent gardens in Europe, and asked Besler to compile a codex of all the plants growing there which, initially, was started in 1596 and designed by Joachim Camerius the Younger (1534-1598). It took Besler 16 years to complete the task; unfortunately, the bishop died weeks before the publication of the Hortus. – The garden was sacked by Swedish troops in 1633/4 during the 30 Year War but re-opened in 1998 after reconstruction, following closely the outline of the book.

What makes the Hortus so unique is that instead of portraying medicinal or culinary plants, the emphasis was on garden flowers, herbs, vegetables and exotic plants. These were depicted almost life size with great detail, and arranged artistically and pleasing to even the modern eye, with an average of 3 plants on one sheet. This arrangement made up a total of 1084 plants on 367 copper engravings on 368 large folio sized sheets. –  First published in 1613, 300 copies were printed which took over four years to sell. Two version were produced of the first edition: one with text on verso of the plant print, intended as reference books; the second without text, on quality paper and lavishly hand-coloured, used as presentation or subscriber copies. In 1640 and 1713, two further editions were published. – The luxury version sold for an exorbitant 500 florins, while the plain, uncoloured copies went for 35 florins each. Besler could finally purchase a comfortable home in a fashionable part of Nürnberg at a price of 2 500 florins – five coloured copies’ worth of ‘Hortus Eystettensis’!

de Belder 23, 24, 25; Nissen 158

Paper oat meal coloured; light horizontal centre crease (due to drying on a line); additional smaller printer’s creases; one vertical slight crease on ;ower right part; some text off set from verso; stitch holes in right margin;  minor marginal tears; remnants of old paper hinges and repair tape on verso; rust spots; right margin 4 cm long tear, repaired with tape, into image, but hardly visible; o/w vg cond.

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