Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Hortus Eystettensis

The Bavarian Prince Bishop of Eichstätt rebuilt an ancient palace on a hilltop in the late 16th century near Munich. Surrounding the Willibaldsburg palace he employed Joachim Camerarius to plant a garden covering about a hectare (2 and 1/2 acres).

Camerarius died soon after the project began and was replaced by Basilius Besler, an apothecary and botanical specialist from Nuremburg. Besler was instrumental in choosing and nurturing a wide collection of flowering plants, including specimens from the Americas, Africa and Asia in addition to European plants. By all accounts it was a magnificent garden and was one of the first botanical gardens established outside of Italy.

It seems the Prince Bishop made some sketches and asked that Besler have them engraved. Thereafter, for (up to) 16 years, Besler extended the idea and devoted his energies to producing the most extensive florelegium known at that time, which is still regarded as the finest botanical book ever produced. With a team of 10 engravers, large folio engravings were made, allowing the prints to match the size of the specimens in many cases. My understanding is that Besler himself did some of the engraving, but he was certainly the driving force behind the undertaking.

The book was published in 1613 (the year following the death of the Prince Bishop). Over 1000 plants were illustrated on 350 pages. A black and white edition included notes about the plants for apothecaries, whereas the more expensive hand coloured edition (300 in the print run with colouring done by Georg Mack) included the illustrations by themselves. Although the images were nearly true to life, a concession to the prevailing baroque aesthetic resulted in some embellishment appearing, such as in the traditional portrayal of the root system.

Beyond the artistic and printing qualities of this work, it ironically prefigures the Linnaean system of binomial naming of species with Besler assigning dual names, according to the seasons - the former phenomenon is more to do with luck but in the case of the latter, it was a significant attempt to marry up the scientific attributes of plants with a classification system. Indeed, the book is divided into four parts, one for each of the seasons (it has been known as 'the book of seasons' in some circles). The latin title, Hortus Eystettensis, translates as ‘The Garden at Eichstätt’.

I'm in Canberra at my brother's house at present and am enduring some impediments to my usual posting frequency.

The troubles (!!) with the wireless network alone have curbed my usual online habits, but when this is coupled with the sideline
[enjoyable] surfing I've been doing as a guest contributor in March at Coudal Partners and more significantly, with the house break-in and burglary of a laptop (among many other things) from my brother's place and the resultant competition between various university/school student relatives for the remaining internet access...well, as you can imagine, it's quite difficult getting a post together, for which I apologize.

Hopefully this situation will pick up as my intimidation tactics against the smaller and weaker of my relatives become more successful ;- )


peacay said...

Hi Michelle. To capture an image on XP I simply hit alt-printscrn. This copies the whole of the screen to the clipboard (so I usually hit F11 first to maximize the screen).

Then I just paste the image into Irfanview image manipulation program, crop it and it's done.

I particularly use this screen capture for flash sites. [I know all this is about the same on a Mac but I don't know the key combination]

peacay said...

It's a very basic, free image viewing program. It does what I want - resizes and sharpens (plus a bunch of other stuff). It's like photoshop for kindergarten ;)

[I use MSPaint for touching up backgrounds]

peacay said...

Thanks Rob. It's funny, I've just lately been thinking of taking off 1 or 2 entries from the main page. Mostly because I seem to be posting more images per entry.

Noone has ever mentioned it (save for an acquaintance 6 months ago) and I know of at least 1 person - a friend - who happily loads it every day from dialup. Go figure.

I suppose there are 2 additional points that suggest themselves for consideration: 1. There's a trillion websites out there with high loads; it's not rocket science, you stop the page if it takes too long. 2. This site is in fact a gallery and up until now at least, I've left up a sufficient amount of material both so people visiting can get a decent feel for the nature of the content and also because I love this stuff and I spend a ton of time on the site and so I like to look at this stuff for about a week.

But as I say - point taken. Too bad you have no profile nor address such that I can satisfy myself that you're not simply spamming in a left handed way. Are you?

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