Besler. The Garden at Eichstätt



Besler. The Garden at Eichstätt
Hardcover, three vols. in slipcase
24.3 x 30.4 cm, 6.54 kg
1096 pages
ISBN 978-3-8365-9433-2
Edition: English, French, German (Famous First Edition)

Besler. The Garden at Eichstätt A complete facsimile edition of the three-volume Hortus Eystettensis.

The 367 exquisite hand-coloured plates of the Hortus Eystettensis, published in 1613 with elaborate descriptions to record the palatial gardens in Eichstätt, Bavaria, were a landmark in botanical illustration. This facsimile edition, featuring authoritative texts and a present-day classification, preserves a treasured florilegium for posterity.

When Prince-Bishop Johann Konrad von Gemmingen (1593/95–1612) undertook a radical renovation of the Willibaldsburg Castle, overlooking the Altmühl River in Eichstätt, Bavaria, he also created a surrounding palatial pleasure garden of magnificence and grandeur. To preserve the garden for future generations – and provide an ‘evergreen’ record of its contents, compiling plants from all four seasons and presenting them in that order – he commissioned the garden’s director, Nuremberg apothecary Basilius Besler (1561–1629), and a team of engravers to immortalise its treasures in print.

The resulting Hortus Eystettensis, published in Nuremberg in 1613 and containing 367 hand-coloured plates and detailed descriptions, was a work of meticulous execution and spectacular diversity, and remarkably expensive for its time. As the garden contained a variety of plants imported from exotic locales, the three volumes exhibited a remarkable range, covering a total of 90 families and 340 genera. Due to the decorative, stylised execution of these illustrations, which began to see plants in aesthetic, rather than merely practical or medicinal terms, the book is seen as a milestone in the art of botanical illustration. While published before a time of standardised classification systems, it was nonetheless later described by Carl Linnaeus as an “incomparable work”.

Besler’s catalog long outlived the gardens, which were destroyed in 1634 by invading Swedish troops during the Thirty Years’ War. However, a lengthy redevelopment project at the historic site has culminated in the opening of the modern Bastion Garden in 1998, containing many of the plants shown in the Hortus Eystettensis.


Besler. The Garden at Eichstätt


Offering high-quality reproductions of these arresting illustrations, based on the copy of the Hortus Eystettensis at the University Library of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt, this facsimile edition is accompanied by detailed plate descriptions of each plant’s botanical, pharmaceutical, and symbolic significance and an appendix of further essays which place the garden and the book in their historical contexts.

This edition presents an valuable piece of botanical literature which, on the rare occasions where a copy appears on the market, can fetch prices of over $1,000,000 at auction. In line with Besler’s original intentions, this facsimile unfurls the garden to a wider audience and captures it for posterity.


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