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In the fourteenth century the German castle Willibaldsburg was built in Eichstatt in the state of Bavaria.
The castle served as the residence of the prince bishops of the Eichstatt bishopric.
Over time gardens began to appear surrounding the castle.
In the seventeenth century the Bishop, then Johann Konrad von Gemmingen, entrusted the design of the gardens to Nurenberg apothecary Basilius Besler (1561-1629). [right] The gardens would, however, not be finished during Gemmingen’s lifetime.
Once completed the castle became famous for its extensive gardens.
Book of Botanical Prints
Besides designing the gardens, Besler also produced a magnificent collection of botanical prints in a book he called Hortus Eyestettensis (1613) or Garden of Eichstatt.
The collection of plates, or florilegium, Besler made as true to nature as possible. It took him thirteen years to compile the book with the help of a team of engravers.
The plants in the book of plates were named well before Carl Linneaus introduced his system of botanical names based on genus and species in the late 1700s.
Linnaeus, however, would one day see the book and praise it as an “incomparable opus, a work beyond compare.”
The book includes almost 1100 plant types in a total of 367 copperplate engravings.
Here is the beautiful title page of the book. [below]
Plants in the Book
The plants from the gardens form the basis of this collection of botanical prints.
He says, “Even if we can no longer reconstruct the garden with complete authenticity, the Hortus Eystettensis undoubtedly provides an accurate overall picture of the appearance of the garden treasured by plant enthusiasts at that time.
“The printed Hortus Eystettensis mirrors the garden of the Bishop of Eichstatt that was so admired by his contemporaries.”
The National Garden Bureau has proclaimed this year the ‘Year of the Sunflower.’
One of the many flowers Besler included in the book is this beautiful sunflower. [below]
The index at the end lists both the modern botanical name and the English name of each plant.
For example, Ricinus communis has the English name ‘castor oil plant.’
Littger says in his Introduction, “With a little imagination, we can enter the garden once more by looking at the plates.”
Thanks to the German apothecary Basilius Besler for this beautiful book of botanical plates.