Clive A. Burden LTD. Rare Maps, Antique Atlases, Books and Decorative Prints

The Mapping of North America

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Basilius Besler’s ‘Hortus Eystettensis’ is one of the most important and beautiful florilegia ever published. The book, which was the largest ever published at the time, was commissioned by Prince-Bishop Johann Conrad von Gemmingen in 1606 whose castle overlooked the town of Eichstatt to the south of Nuremberg. His garden was begun by Joachim Camerarius the younger (1534-98) but was completed by Basilius Besler. Besler was a pharmacist from Nuremberg who had his own renowned garden. Besler used the services of his younger brother Hieronymus and Ludwig Jungermann, a teacher in natural history at the University of Altdorf. The project was to be a vast catalogue and it is believed that Hieronymus Besler helped him write the Latin text, while Jungermann prepared the botanical descriptions. In the dedication Besler identifies himself as the author of many of the original drawings which are conserved today in the library of the University of Erlangen. The engraving of the 378 plates however took many years and was the work of others. The “Hortus Eystettensis” was published in 1613, unfortunately just one year after Gemmingen died. Coloured examples sold for 500 fl., ten times that of a black and white version!

The full plate sunflower offered here was described in the Oak Spring Flora as having ‘an undeniable expressive power’. Indeed, it is hard to think of a historical botanical engraving which is as well-known and has such impact. The plate appears as the first in the section on summer in the book and as such is the very symbol of long warm days. This example is remarkable in not only being the most famous botanical engraving in the first edition of 1613 but also being in FULL EARLY WASH COLOUR. This example has been authenticated by Nicolas Barker whose book studied only the early coloured examples extant. He located approximately twenty-two examples of the book in early colour, considerably more than previously thought. The book goes into extensive detail about pigments used, even identifying some of the colourists by name. It also completely re-wrote the previous misconceptions about the differing editions. His comments on this example were ‘In sum, I believe these plates to come from a copy coloured according to the original exemplar (that is, before the use of written instructions), probably before the middle of the 17th century.’ Provenance: private German collection since the 1950s; private English collection since 1990. Barker ‘Hortus Eystettensis. The Bishop’s Garden and Besler’s Magnificent Book’; Barker, Nicolas, private correspondence; Hunt (1958) 430; Nissen 158; Pritzel 745; Stafleu & Cowan 497; Tomasi ‘Oak Spring Flora’ pp. 52-7.

BESLER, Basil

Flos Solis maior

Eichstatt, 1613
510 x 400 mm., in FULL EARLY WASH COLOUR, excellent condition.
Stock number: 7990
$ 29,500
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