Basilius Besler was a pharmacist in Nuremberg who set up his own botanical gardens,
and developed a comprehensive collection of natural history specimens, and was soon known as a botanist and collector of natural history specimens. He described, his then famous, natural history showcase in two books.
He was in charge of the bishop's gardens in Eichstätt, and in 1609, Besler wrote a description
of the garden he created for the bishop of Eichstätt. In 1611, the Prince Bishop of Eichstätt in Germany was already terminally ill when he determined to record for posterity the
spectacular garden he'd created at his palace in Bavaria with plants from around the world.
Eichstätt was the first major European botanical garden outside Italy.
Hundreds of his favourite flowers where carefully drawn and engraved as they bloomed through the four seasons. Published in 1613, the finished catalogue was the largest and most magnificent florilegium ever made. Many of the exotic flowers were imported from the Americas and the Ottoman Empire.
The precious work he then produced, his famous plant atlas Hortus Eystettensis, was published in 1613 by Besler and Ludwig Jungermann and printed in large format, with the bishop financing it.
The work contains 1,086 illustrations of plants from 367 copperplate engravings, most of which were depicted in their natural size and took 16 years to complete.
The principal engraver was Wolfgang Kilian (1581-1662); as many as ten other artists and engravers may also have been employed. Over one thousand flowers were depicted, representing 667 species with exemplary fidelity to nature. The rhythmic patterns of roots, however, betray the decorative linear conventions of the era of Albrecht Durer and Lucas Cranach.
The 'Hortus Eystettensis' was one of the first printed herbals to be illustrated. Such an undertaking was of inestimable value to doctors, pharmacists, and their patients. The 'Hortus Eystettensis' also represented a significant effort to systematize botanical nomenclature, which would not be standardized until the publication of Linnaeus' system in 1753.
- First Edition, 1613. Text description printed on the back of the print.
- Second Edition, 1640. Back of print is blank and paper watermarked with a snake.
- Third Edition, 1713 [- c. 1750]. Thicker and richer with grainier cloth fibers. Text description printed on the back of the print.
In 1998, a reconstruction of the original garden opened to the public in Eichstätt.
Address/Information: Burgstraße 19, 85072 Eichstätt
Telephone (0 84 21) 47 30
Opening hours : mid-April until mid-October:9 am-6 pm
Closed Mondays, closed from mid-October until mid-April
- Barker, Nicolas. Hortus Eystettensis, The Bishop's Garden and Besler's Magnificent Book. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1994. p.21.
- Blunt, Wilfred, rev. by Stearn, William T. The Art of Botanical Illustration. Woodbridge, Suffolk, England: Antique Collectors Club, 1994. pp. 106-108.
- Brindle, John V., James J. White and Donald E Wendel. Flora Portrayed: Classics of Botanical Art from the Hunt Institute Collection. Pittsburgh, PA: Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, Carnegie-Mellon University, 1985. 430.
- Keunecke, Hans-Otto. Hortus Eystettensis: zur Geschichte eines Gartens und einer Buches, Munich: Schirmer/Mosel, 1989, pp.106-112, 131-4.
- Mail-Brandt, Maria. "Besler, Basilius Apotheker, Sammler, Gartenliebhaber, Verleger" Garten-Literatur. 27 February 2002.
- Nissen, Claus. Die Botanische Buchillustration: ihre Geschichte und Bibliographie. Stuttgart:1951-66. 159.
- Pritzel, Georg August. Thesaurus Literaturae Botanicae Omnium Gentium. Milan: 1950. 745.
- Stafleu, Frans A. and Richard S.Cowan. Taxonomic Literature. Utrecht: 1967. 2nd ed., Utrecht: 1976-1988. 497