Below are three hand-colored copper engravings from Basil Besler’s Hortus Eystettensis, the first great florilegium. Published in Eichstatt, 1613, two of these prints come from the first edition. Besler’s botanical work “is without doubt one of the greatest flower books ever produced in any country,” according to De Belder. It is “splendid in its array of large drawings, magnificent as a record of the plants in a German garden at the beginning of the seventeenth century” (Hunt). An apothecary and botanist, Besler was in charge of designing and maintaining the celebrated garden of Johann Konrad von Gemmingen, Prince Bishop of Eichstatt. Besler spent 16 years creating the drawings for this work.
Hortus Eystettensis consists of 374 plates, arranged according to season. More than 1,000 flowers are depicted, representing 667 species. Dramatic and often intensely colored, the Besler florals are the largest early botanical prints ever made. Not until the publication of Dr. Robert Thornton’s Temple of Flora 200 years later was there another botanical work fine enough to equal Besler’s.