HORTUS SANITATIS. Mainz: Jacob Meydenbach, 23 June 1491.
Chancery 2° (298 x 203mm). Collation as BMC. 453 leaves (of 454, without final blank). 48 lines and headline, double column, table in 3 columns. Type: 155G, 92G. Xylographic title, 7 full-page woodcuts and more than 1000 column-width woodcuts coloured by a near-contemporary hand, initials and paragraph marks and opening capital strokes in red. Small engraving of butterflies and two hand-coloured drawings of birds cut round and mounted on Birds section title. (Several repaired tears, a few into text without loss, 13 leaves partly [in a few cases, largely] defective and repaired, occasional staining and light browning.) Mid 16th-century German blind-tooled pigskin over wooden boards, bevelled on inner edge, sides panelled with heads-in-medallion and other rolls, at centre armorial plaques of the Holy Roman Empire and of Saxony [Haebler I, 67 (V.B., possibly Ulm), chaced brass corner-pieces stamped Maria, engraved clasps, red edges. Provenance: contemporary annotations in a neat hand giving instructions for colour of many plants and occasional identifications -- F.F. Bibliothek Donaueschingen (sale, Sotheby's, 1 July 1994, lot 161; stamp and pencil shelfmark).
THE FUERSTENBERG COPY OF THE FIRST EDITION, fully coloured, of 'perhaps the most important medical woodcut book printed before 1500' (Hunt I, 8) and the most copiously illustrated early printed herbal. Copies often contain early inscriptions giving plant identifications in the vernacular, but the present copy is of special interest since it contains contemporary colour guides for numerous plants, as well as some identifications. The colour instructions (light green, liver-brown, red, yellow, white, blue, etc). were followed soon after to produce a vividly coloured copy, which, despite some defective leaves, is in a fresh state.
The Hortus sanitatis is a greatly expanded Latin version of the Gart der Gesundheit (Mainz: Schoeffer, 1485). In particular the parts on animals, birds, fishes, stones and minerals have been substantially enlarged into full sections. The woodcuts are copied in part from the Gart (more directly from Grueninger's 1485/86 reprint -- see Arnim, Schäfer 170), but new designs have been added to the supplementary sections, increasing the number to over 1000. Among them featrues what is probably THE FIRST DEPICTION OF OIL COLLECTION; petroleum is described and the woodcut shows it pouring from a rock and being collected in a vessel. The Hortus sanitatis is the first book printed by Meydenbach. HC *8944; BMC I,44 (IB. 343-4); BSB H-388; Schreiber 4247; Early Herbals 45; Davies, Murray German 193; Goff H-486.