GART DER GESUNDHEIT -- CUBE, Johannes von (fl. second of 15th century) Gart der Gesundheit. Mainz: Peter Schoeffer, 28 March 1485.
Chancery 2° (278 x 198mm). Collation: [1-458] (1/1r full-page woodcut, verso blank, 1/2r prologue by Bernhard von Breydenbach, 1/3v blank, 1/4r text, 43/3r list of digestive aids, 43/5r tract on urology, 43/8v register of illnesses and remedies, 45/5r alphabetical plant list, 45/7v colophon, 45/8 blank). 360 leaves (first leaf supplied from another, slightly shorter, copy). 42 lines. Type: 7:149a (headings), 8:93 (text). 3- to 6-line initial spaces, a few later initials added. Colophon and printer's device printed in red. 379 woodcuts: full-page woodcut of botanists in council, 10 woodcuts of animals, one of people, and the remainder of plants, all FULLY COLOURED BY A CONTEMPORARY HAND. (First leaf [woodcut] mounted, with small abrasions and some later colouring; marginal dampstain in first few leaves, some spotting, scattered staining and light thumb-soiling, corner of 10/3 torn touching 2 words.) 16th-century German blindstamped pigskin over beveled wooden boards by Georg Freyberger, concentric roll-tooled panels, two with initials G.F. (Haebler I, 114:2 and Geck GbJb 1954, Abb. 8), 2 fore-edge clasps, blue edges (split at upper hinge, lightly rubbed, some wear at corners); modern burgundy morocco-backed folding box. Provenance: a few early annotations -- Massachusetts Horticultural Society (sale, Sothebys New York, 1 October 1980, lot 120, to:) -- Robert de Belder (1921-1995; sold to Bernard Quaritch Ltd., omitted from the sale at Sotheby's, April 1987).
FIRST EDITION OF THE MOST IMPORTANT ILLUSTRATED WORK ON NATURAL HISTORY OF ITS ERA AND A LANDMARK IN BOTANICAL ILLUSTRATION. The Gart marks perhaps the greatest single step ever made in botanical art (Klebs), a decisive break from the medieval generic representation of plants, and contains for the first time morphologically accurate depictions. The woodcuts formed the basis for all botanical illustration until the publication of Brunfels's herbal in 1530. Bernard Breydenbach was responsible for the Gart. Interested in materia medica from at least 1475, Breydenbach planned an illustrated herbal before he set out for his famous pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1483. He commissioned Johannes von Cube to compile it, and his pilgrimage artist, Erhard Reuwich, to provide plant illustrations, specifically Mediterranean plants sketched en route. While about 90 woodcuts are attributed to Reuwich, those depicting Mediterranean plants derive from the Codex Berleburg, a manuscript owned by Breydenbach which includes a herbal among its texts. They are the first printed illustrations of plants of the Middle East.
The Gart is important for its text, as well as its illustration. It is a compendium of the whole pharmacy of the time, and gives much information about plants and their uses, and maladies, their diagnosis and treatment. As an extensive German-language text, it is also important philologically, and is a valuable source for history and folklore.
The binding is the work of Georg Freyberger (d.1593), active first at Mainz, then at Würzburg from 1574-88, where he was binder at the court of Julius Echter, before returning to Mainz at the end of his life (cf. Geck, "Zwei Mainzer Buchbinder des 16. Jahrhunderts", GbJb, 1954, pp.316-320).
The majority of copies are imperfect. See Gundolf Keil Hortus Sanitatius, Gart der Gesundheit, Gaerde der Sunthede Medieval Gardens, ed. E. B. MacDougall, 1986, pp.55-68. H *8948; BMC I, 35 (IB. 242, imperfect); BSB-Ink. W-93 (2 copies, one imperfect); Bod-Inc. G-50 (imperfect); Hunt I, 5; Klebs 507.1; Klebs Herbals 42.1; Schreiber 4332; Goff G-97.