A Gathering of Flowers

two

Old books hold their own mystique; as if endowed with sacred properties, to be revered, protected, held in awe. I’m not talking about books from decades ago, rather those hundreds of years old. The Hortus Eystettensis is no exception.

cover

This first edition botanical book was printed in 1613 and made the news this week as it comes up for sale at Christie’s in London. It is not the humungous value of the book (an estimated £ 1.2 million / $ 1.7 million) that I find astonishing, rather the beauty, detail and colour which is so staggering.

Z 193

The drawings are as vivid and alluring as on the day they were created, the colours striking, bright.

four

The florilegium (latin for A Gathering of Flowers) depicts over a 1,000 varieties of flowers found in the gardens of the Bishop of Eichstätt and was commissioned by the bishop. The botanist Basilius Besler created the book along with a team of gifted craftsmen and altogether the task took him sixteen years.

one

The work generally reflects the four seasons, showing first the flowering and then the fruiting stages. There were two forms of the books. A cheaper black and white version with drawings and text for reference purposes as well as this more luxurious hand-coloured version on top quality paper without text.

book

The Hortus Eystettensis is unique in that is changed the face of botanical art overnight. Previous botany books had concentrated on medicinal and culinary herbs, which were mostly depicted in a crude manner.  Besler’s book was of garden flowers, herbs and vegetables as well as exotic plants such as  arum lilies. The drawings were reproduced on high-quality engraved copper plates by expert craftsmen before printing and the reproductions are almost life-sized in exquisite detail. The layout was unusual too and modern in its concept and artistically pleasing. The pièce de résistance however is the beautiful and delicate hand-colouring throughout the book.

‘If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.’ Buddha

Information from Wikipedia and The Times.