Once upon a time—long before football, baseball, basketball, and hockey—science was a sport, an intellectual adventure between collectors and their cabinets imagine a miniature natural history museum in your rec room. Individuals would pursue exotic plants, animals, fossils, minerals, and archeological artifacts to illustrate in a very tangible way their wealth and intelligence. Science was the most intellectual sport in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. You might think of Basilius Besler as a coach to those with the brains and surplus income to collect intellectual objects. In a Renaissance home, one important way to display both your wealth and knowledge was to create a cabinet. Surrounding your estate, you would organize a garden filled with exotics collected carefully from around the world.
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The Bishop, Johann Konrad von Gemmingen, commissioned Besler to produce the work, which he compiled over sixteen years, although the bishop died before its completion. Besler had the assistance of his brother and a group of skilled German draughtsmen and engravers, including Sebastian Schedel , an accomplished painter, and Wolfgang Kilian , a skilled engraver from Augsburg.
Camerarius' nephew, Ludwig Jungermann — , was a botanist and wrote most of the descriptive text. The emphasis in botanicals of previous centuries had been on medicinal and culinary herbs, and these had usually been depicted in a crude manner.
The images were often inadequate for identification, and had little claim to being aesthetic. The Hortus Eystettensis changed botanical art overnight. The plates were of garden flowers, herbs and vegetables, exotic plants such as castor-oil and arum lilies.
These were depicted near life-size, producing rich detail. The layout was artistically pleasing and quite modern in concept, with the hand-colouring adding greatly to the final effect. The work was first published in and consisted of copper engravings, with an average of three plants per page, so that a total of species were depicted. The first edition printed copies, which took four years to sell.
Two versions were produced, cheap black and white for use as a reference book, and a luxury version without text, printed on quality paper and lavishly hand-coloured. The luxury version sold for an exorbitant florins , while the plain, uncoloured copies went for 35 florins each.
The work generally reflected the four seasons, showing first the flowering and then the fruiting stages. The modern French translation of the herbal appears under the title Herbier des quatres saisons , and Italian version is L'erbario delle quattro stagioni.
Descriptions of the plants were in Latin and showed remarkable anticipation of the binomial system, in that the captions often consisted of the first two or three words of the description.
Besler's portrait appears on the frontispiece holding a sprig of basil , punning on his name. The work was published twice more in Nuremberg, in and , using the same plates. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article may be expanded with text translated from the corresponding article in German.
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Hortus Eystettensis, Basilius Besler, gardens, and cabinets
Hundreds of flowers were carefully drawn and engraved as they bloomed through the four seasons. Published in , the finished catalogue was the largest and most magnificent florilegium ever made. Sadly, the Prince Bishop never lived to see it, as he died the year before. The Bishop's palace, the Willibaldsburg, was built on a hill overlooking the city.
Sale Price realised GBP 1,, Hortus Eystettensis. Royal broadsheet x mm. The present copy is the only one known to have been coloured south of the Alps and the only one extra-illustrated. The copy contains 15 additional 17th-century original drawings in water- and body-colour and a hand-coloured engraving of a passion flower, giant granadilla.
Biodiversity Heritage Library
Crown Imperial, from the Teylers Museum copy. Double red peony with a sedum nestling underneath, from the Teylers Mueum copy. It changed botanical art almost overnight. Eichstadt from Matthias Merian, Topographia Franconiae , Besler holding what looks like a sprig of basil, Teylers Museum copy. It proved to be an inspired, if ultimately an expensive, choice.