Sunday, August 03, 2014

Swiss Fruit

An 1860s pomological manuscript documents
the varieties of pears (birensorte) and
apples (apfelsorte) unique to Switzerland

Pomology is a branch of botany relating to the study and cultivation of fruit [W]. I don't believe a post devoted to fruit drawings has ever appeared on BibliOdyssey. It's not for want of material; it's more about the general mediocrity of the genre. Pomological collections tend to be the poor orphan of the botanical world in terms of illustrative qualities. I've saved a lot of samples over the years, but could never quite generate enough enthusiasm to pull the trigger. Until today: this naturalistic and unpretentious set caught my eye. I like it. [Yes, yes: it's all *in my opinion*. Being emperor and guardian of this site has its privileges.]


Birnensorte Winter-Dechantsbirne (Doyenné d'hiver)
Birnensorte Winter-Dechantsbirne (Doyenné d'hiver)



Birnensorte Wasserbirne
Birnensorte Wasserbirne



Birnensorte Sommer-Apothekerbirne (Bon-Chrétien d'été, Römerbirne)
Birnensorte Sommer-Apothekerbirne (Bon-Chrétien d'été, Römerbirne)



Birnensorte St. Germain (Hermannsbirne)
Birnensorte St. Germain (Hermannsbirne



Birnensorte Sülibirne
Birnensorte Sülibirne



Birnensorte Regentin (Passe Colmar, Beurré d'Argenson)
Birnensorte Regentin (Passe Colmar, Beurré d'Argenson)



Birnensorte Graue Herbst-Butterbirne (Beurré gris)
Birnensorte Graue Herbst-Butterbirne (Beurré gris)



Birnensorte Schweizer Bratbirne
Birnensorte Schweizer Bratbirne



Apfelsorte Schafnase (Naht-Apfel, Baarapfel von Wädensweil)
Apfelsorte Schafnase (Naht-Apfel, Baarapfel von Wädensweil)



Birnensorte Clairgeau's Butterbirne (Beurré Clairgeau, Poire Clairgeau)
Birnensorte Clairgeau's Butterbirne (Beurré Clairgeau, Poire Clairgeau)



Birnensorte Längler (Poire d'Etranguillon)
Birnensorte Längler (Poire d'Etranguillon)



Apfelsorte Weisser Winter Calvill (Calville blanc d'hiver, Calville blanche à côtes
Apfelsorte Weisser Winter Calvill (Calville blanc d'hiver, Calville blanche à côtes



Apfelsorte Waldhöfler Holzapfel
Apfelsorte Waldhöfler Holzapfel



Apfelsorte Schafnase (Naht-Apfel, Baarapfel von Wädensweil)
Apfelsorte Schafnase (Naht-Apfel, Baarapfel von Wädensweil



Apfelsorte Gaesdonker Reinette
Apfelsorte Gaesdonker Reinette



Apfelsorte Pariser Rambour Reinette (Reinette de Paris)
Apfelsorte Pariser Rambour Reinette (Reinette de Paris)



Apfelsorte Luikenapfel
Apfelsorte Luikenapfel



Apfelsorte Hornussecher
Apfelsorte Hornussecher



In mid-19th century Switzerland, the wider agricultural community - farmers and rural agricultural associations -  recognised that fruit production was both an important local occupation and also a significant contributor to the national economy. Fruit-growing stakeholders wanted to safeguard the industry, and had been agitating for a long time in support of creating a scientific guide and visual record of all the fruit varieties in the country. The Swiss Agricultural Society commissioned an extensive and detailed review of the apple and pear varieties, grown in Switzerland, through a St Gallen publishing house.

A committee of gardeners, civil servants and the like was formed to direct the project in consultation with Swiss growers and provincial agricultural societies. They chose the varieties of fruit to include and advised how specimens could be collected. The illustrator (Salomon Bühlmeier) was tasked with sketching specific views of the fruits and the branch twigs on which they grew. The committee also guided the nature of the text that accompanied each of the illustrations when it was published: systematic and common names, geographical distribution, general fruit, flower and tree descriptions, details about growing seasons and harvesting, characteristics of the fruit varieties and how they could be prepared and used in the kitchen. The enterprise was supported by some unnamed pomologists and farming types, including, in particular, one Herr Pfau-Schellenberg.

Salomon Bühlmeier (1814-1876) was an academy trained artist who specialised in painting and etching and taught drawing in St Gallen when the pomological project came up. Between 1863 and 1872, Bühlmeier travelled the country contacting farmers and regional agricultural societies, and he produced an exhaustive study of Swiss apples and pears. His watercolour and pencil fruit and twig sketches were drawn life-size, and were turned into lithographs for publication in serial format. I believe the intention was for twice yearly instalments, each featuring five apples and five pears and the final books (a volume for each fruit) contained up to 200 fruit varieties in total (presumably).

About 190 of Bühlmeier's actual sketches were donated to the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. These charming artworks were digitised and uploaded only last year. So we are seeing the original drawings above and not the lithographic plates from the final publication (which was called, incidentally, 'Swiss Fruits' (1872), edited by the Swiss Agricultural Society). I saw commentary suggesting that 'Swiss Fruits' was the first ever lithographic publication devoted to fruit species.




1 comment :

penelopebianchi said...

How completely charming! Love these!!

Thank you!!!

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