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Basilius Besler

German Hand-Colored Peony Engravings

Mid 17th Century

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Hand-finished copper engravings from Hortus Eystettensis, one of the earliest and most famous works in the field.

  • Sold as a set of 4.
  • Copper engraved plates enhanced by hand with color.
  • Basilius Besler (German, 1561–1629) was a respected Nuremberg apothecary and botanist, best known for his monumental Hortus Eystettensis.
  • Framed and glazed. 
  • Published by Nuremberg and Eichstatt.

The Hortus Eystettensis is a pictorial record of the flowers grown in the greatest German garden of its time, that of Prince Bishop of Eichstatt, Johann Conrad von Gemmingen. The garden was begun by Joachim Camerarius in 1596 and, after his death in 1598, completed by Basilius Besler. A visitor, Philipp Hainhofer, in 1611 marveled at the eight gardens, each containing "flowers from a different country; they varied in the beds and flowers, especially in the beautiful roses, lilies, tulips." The Hortus records this variety and beauty. The book is exceptional in every sense; in its variety and range of flowers, in its size, in its fine quality of engraving. It is also one of the earliest records of flowers from a specific, documented garden. Besler was asked to complete the work by Gemmingen in 1606; the huge nature of the task was clear to Besler and he enlisted the help of his younger brother Hieronymus and Ludwig Jungermann, a nephew of Camerarius. Printing the Hortus may have begun as early as 1607. Drawings were made in situ and from specimens sent by the Bishop to Nuremberg; the Bishop reported to Hainhofer that he had boxes of fresh flowers sent every week to Besler at Nuremberg for sketching. A team of at least 10 engravers were employed to translate the drawings to copper plates. The gardens, along with most of the town of Eichstatt, were destroyed by the invading Swedish troops under Herzog Bernhard von Weimar in 1633–4, although they were partially restored by later bishops. Many of the original drawings survive in the University Library, Erlangen.


Nissen 158; Pritzel 745; Hunt 430; Blunt, pp 95-97; Stafleu & Cowan 497

Condition Report

Star iconVery Good
Like New

Not examined out of frame.

Wear consistent with age and use.


Height: 23.75 inches / 60.33 cm
Width: 20.15 inches / 51.18 cm


Paper, Gilt Wood, Glass



Decorative Style

Traditional Style

Country of Origin


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