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BESLER, Basilius.

Hortus Eystettensis.

[Nuremberg]: 1613 Stock Code: 147073
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The greatest of all botanical books, with 355 of the floral plates

The grandest and greatest botanical book ever published, Besler's monumental work commemorates the famous gardens of the Prince Bishop of Eichstätt by depicting over a thousand plants, many newly imported from the Americas and Ottoman Empire and illustrated here for the first time; this copy in a contemporary, perhaps trade binding, without text on the plate versos, the preferred format.

This is the second edition of the same year, a "deluxe edition" (Hoffmann and Zoehl) with the text stripped away to leave the plates unencumbered, with the intent of commissioning hand colouring by the purchaser. The first edition was dedicated to Prince-Bishop of Eichstätt Johann Conrad, who died in November 1613. His successor Johann Christoph secured funding for the project to continue. Following Johann Conrad's death Besler arranged a second edition, with the dedication to Johann Conrad replaced with a dedication to Johann Christoph. The first edition had the plates with accompanying text printed on the verso or else on separate sheets bound in; this second edition did not have any text save for the preliminaries and index. The portrait of Besler now appears without his coat of arms; the privilege leaves are the same. The same plates are used between the two editions, though with these on watermarked paper (a coat of arms with a pine cone on top) whereas the first edition is not watermarked. The first edition was printed in 300 copies, whereas the number of this edition is unknown, but is expected to be significantly smaller. Although this edition was intended for hand-colouring, the enormous expense of colouring such a large book (copies at the time are recorded as priced 48 florins uncoloured, 500 florins coloured) meant that most copies were not coloured.

The differences between the first and second editions are mostly academic, both published the same year, and with the plates identical save for the type of paper (indeed, Barker holds that this paper to be of a higher quality, and otherwise preferable). A more significant focus for collectors is the two formats of plates, one with text on the verso (found in much of the first edition), and the format without text on the verso (as with all of the present second edition, and part of the first edition where the text was issued on separate leaves). The present format is much preferred by collectors - where the plates have the text on the verso, the text is often visible from the recto and intrudes upon the image. This was surely recognized by Besler, as this edition, discarding the accompanying descriptive text leaves as superfluous, ensured the plates were unencumbered.

Copies at auction of either edition always fetch in the six figures and higher, and almost always lack a number of plates, as here. This copy, formerly unrecorded, has been left in its dilapidated, but unrestored (save for a few basic tape paper repairs) state. In 2016, a copy of this edition with contemporary hand colouring (also without the season titles) made 1,930,500 at Christie's.

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Large folio (530 x 415 mm). Contemporary calf (?trade), spine backing mostly gone showing construction with old vellum waste, covers tooled with Atlas centrepiece (with gilt mostly gone), brown coloured edges.


With engraved title and portrait of Besler, without the four engraved season title pages as often, and with 355 of 367 floral plates (the absent plates sometime removed with stubs visible, a list of specific plates available on request). Complete with all


Early 19th-century stencil of Frederick Lord Clay, Esq., of North Wingfield in Derbyshire, to front pastedown. Heavily worn, front cover detached, initial free endpapers and 6 following leaves detached and worn. Short closed tears at peripheries of a few leaves, small chip to plate 71 not affecting image, tape reinforcement to tear to dedication leaf, minor tape reinforcement to plate 18, Besler portrait and plate 162 torn across whole sheet affecting image. Overwhelmingly the plates are crisp and fresh, with clear impressions.


Cleveland Herbal 159; Hunt 430 (1713 edition); Nissen BBI 158; Pritzel 745; Stafleu TL2 497. See Aymonin, The Besler Florilegium, 1989 (all plate numbers referring to Aymonin); Nicolas Barker, Hortus Eystettensis: The Bishop's Garden and Besler's Magnific


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