Basil Besler, page from the book ‘Hortus Eystettensis’

Basil Besler, page from the book ‘Hortus Eystettensis’

Basil Besler (1561-1629) 'Hyacinthus Anglic, Cinericeus; Palma Christi maculata; Hyacinthus Comosus spurius; Dracunculus Aquatilis'
Page from 'Hortus Eystettensis', Third Order of Spring, Volume 1
Published in Eichstatt, Nuremberg, Germany in 1613
Hand-coloured engraving
Museum no. Circ.526-1967

This is a plate from a magnificent florilegium (a decorative flower book) known as the Hortus Eystettensis. The work contains 374 plates illustrating more than 1,000 flowering plants in the gardens of the Prince Bishop of Eichstatt. Besler managed the project over a period of 16 years. The illustrations are notable for their elegant design and decorative layout. Each plant is shown with its roots as was conventional in botanical illustration at the time. The plants are illustrated in order according to their season of flowering. Correspondence surrounding the book’s production shows that it was designed to be coloured, and a number of variant hand-coloured copies survive. An intact 'white', that is, an uncoloured edition of the Hortus Eystettensis is in the National Art Library at the V&A.

As the first of its kind, this book triggered a rush of similar books commissioned by the owners of notable gardens for their personal delight and as a way of showing others that they had the means to cultivate such outstanding floral collections. Because these books were produced primarily as statements of possession, they rarely contained any useful text. Nevertheless they did provide botanists with a record of the new and exotic species arriving in Europe from abroad, and were also useful to designers as a pattern source.

This print can be found in Print Room Box DP2.