Thursday, December 26, 2013

A Brief Respite from Winter

Ok, so winter's coming on. Actually, we're already six days into it, and before we embark on a full ninety some-odd days of frost and snow I thought that I'd throw out one more little burst of green. That said, this week's featured collection is Botanical Plates of Basilius Besler:

This collection, in relation to all other botanicals, occupies a special and pivotal position. Prior to its publication this type of portfolio or book served a practical role. Typically, the plants depicted were of a utilitarian value–usually medicinally or culinarily. Illustrations tended to be crude, and the plants were rendered in a single color of ink. They appeared very much like this:

Now, I find the above illustrations quite useful graphically, but that's from a vantage point out about 500 years from their creation. What was startling and revolutionary about Besler's work was not only the accuracy with which the plants were rendered, but that in the deluxe edition they were hand-colored, as well. This 'luxury' edition sold at its initial publication for 500 Florins, and it has been stated that with the proceeds of the sale of five of these hand-colored versions Besler was able to purchase a very  'comfortable' home in one of the better sections of Nuremburg, Germany.

Equally unique was the fact that Besler's horticultural reproduced many renderings of plants kept simply for their aesthetic value; it was a thing to be admired for its beauty–a 16th century coffee table book. (It should be noted that Besler did publish a more utilitarian edition, which was uncolored and sold for a mere 35 florins). Also of note is the scale of the publication itself– approximately 22 x 18". This was, for its day, a luxurious trim size, and it afforded Besler and his various engravers the ablility to depict many plants at nearly life size.

Below is a mini-selection from this collection to entice you. When you consider purchasing this collection, please keep in mind what I said above about the original price!

1 comment:

  1. I can't imagine a more wonderful job than the one you have had, being able to touch the wonderful books in the Dover archives, to pick and choose images for the image collections in the books. I am really happy about the move to digital media. So much more fun to zoom in close, color, mod and use the images now. Bless all of you at Dover!