A respected Nuremberg botanist and apothecary, Besler was also the curator of the garden of Johann Konrad von Gemmingen, prince bishop of Eichstatt in Bavaria. Besler was commissioned by the bishop to compile a codex of the plants growing in his garden at his palace at Willibaldsburg. Besler took sixteen years to complete the task. Sadly, the bishop died shortly before the work was published. Hortus Eystettensis had a major impact on the world of botanical art. The flowers, vegetables, fruit, herbs, and exotic plants were laid out on each plate in a very artistic manner, and nearly life-size. The work consisted of 367 copper plate engravings. There was an average of three plants per page, with a total of 1084 species of plants depicted. The first edition was printed in 1613 with approximately 300 copies made. There were two versions produced, the lesser expensive black and white copies and the luxury version, printed on higher quality paper and richly colored. Probably one of the most interesting characteristics of Besler’s work was that it was arranged according to the seasons, showing the flowering and the fruiting stages of the plants. Winter, with its meager 7 plates of plants; then spring with 134 plates illustrating 454 plates, summer with 505 plants on 184 plates, and finally autumn with illustrations of 98 species on 42 plates. There were two later editions published in Nuremberg in 1640 and 1713. The same plates were used for the 2nd and 3rd editions. The plates were destroyed by the Royal Mint of Munich in 1817.

HORTUS EYSTETTENSIS (Garden at Eichstatt) By Basilius Besler. Nuremberg, 1640.

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