BOCK, HIERONYMUS. Kreüterbuch. Darinn Underscheidt, Namen unnd Würckung der Kreutter, Stauden, Hecken unnd Beumen, sampt ihren Früchten, so inn Deütschen Landen wachsen. Strassburg: Josias Rihel 1556.
Folio, 318 x 194mm. (12 x 7 1/8 in.), CONTEMPORARY DATED BINDING of pigskin over bevelled wooden boards, tooled in blind to a panel design with outer borders of repeated circular floral tools and oak leaf and acorn roll-tools, inner roll-border of Biblical figures, the upper cover with the initials W S above the central panel and the date 1557 below, two original brass clasps, edges stained green, two small holes to leather of upper cover, a few wormholes to lower cover, lacking fol. b5, five or six minor marginal tears or repairs, worm track to gutter of quires I-K, some browning or spotting principally to part 2, title-leaf soiled, some marginal soiling and dampstaining.
3 parts in one, continuous foliation, with blank leaves NN6 and CCc8, Gothic type, index of Latin names and Latin shoulder-notes in italic, woodcut arms on verso of title, portrait of the author on d4v, woodcut gothic initials, 530 WOODCUTS OF PLANTS by David Kandel.
Third illustrated edition in German (a Latin translation was published in 1552), containing 53 more woodcuts than the first illustrated edition of 1546. Most of Kandel's woodcuts--with the exception of those in the latter part of the book, which incorporate charming genre scenes--are reduced copies of those used in the works of Brunfels and Fuchs. Unlike these two, the real innovations in Bock's herbal reside in his text and not in the illustrations. Bock was the first botanist to describe plants in a systematic manner that was based uniquely on his own observations. His aim, as stated on the title-page, was revolutionary: to describe the characteristics and effects of the plants of Germany, a very different study from all previous herbals, which had been concerned with identifying the plants of Dioscorides. He carried this out with unprecedented clarity of expression and of thought: "Brunfels's herbal had not sold well, and it was probably in part Bock's inability to persuade his publisher to pay for illustrations for the first part of his Kreüter Buch...that obliged him to describe in detail...facts that Brunfels and Fuchs mistakenly believed to have been adequately dealt with by their artists" (Blunt and Raphael, p. 129). "His descriptions of flowers were remarkably clear...and they indicated that he comprehended things by which his predecessors had been completely baffled. He recognized the corolla, stamens, and pistils as essential parts of many flowers, and he is probably the first botanist of the 16th century to feel the necessity for some sort of classification" (Hunt I, 66 [1560 Latin edition]). His arrangement of plants within three broad categories of trees, shrubs and herbs, "paved the way for [the] development [of the concepts of genus and species] by such later botanists as Cesalpino, Bauhin and...Linnaeus" (Anderson, An Illustrated History of the Herbals, p. 132). Bock's descriptions, moreover, treated the entire life cycle of plants instead of being limited only to the period of their flowering.
Blunt and Raphael, pp. 129-132; Nissen BBI 182; Pritzel 866; Stafleu TL-2 575; Ahumada 33.
Provenance: Ownership inscription on front pastedown, dated 21 July 1557; contemporary and later marginalia; notes on medicinal weights in a contemporary Latin hand on lower flyleaf, recto; later notes on verso; Juan Carlos Ahumada, bookplate; the present owner.