How a 17th-Century Book of Plants Changed Botanical Illustration Forever

Today, when we come across a beautiful garden or field of flowers, our first instinct is to take out our phone and take a picture. However, before cameras, recording plant life was a much more intensive process. Botanical art—the practice of depicting the form, color, and details of plant life—can be traced back to 70 CE. However, it was a book published in the early 17th century that forever changed this art form.

Johann Konrad von Gemmingen, Prince-Bishop of Eichstätt, famously had Germany’s first botanical garden with numerous species of plants from around the world. Apothecary and botanist Basilius Besler was one of the people in charge of the garden, and was commissioned by the Prince-Bishop to commemorate the flora in an illustrated book, which would later be titled Hortus Eystettensis.

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