BRUNFELS, OTTO. Herbarum vivae eicones [vol. 1]. Strassburg: Johann Schott 1530.
Median folio, 317 x 210mm. (12 1/2 x 8 1/4 in.), original vellum flap binding, modern flyleaves, short tear with old stitching repair to upper cover, title marginally soiled, 3-inch tear to d3, one or two marginal tears, repaired marginal worm track from A2 to the end, small stain to lower fore-corners of some leaves, occasional very light foxing.
Collation and contents as in Hunt I, 30 (second edition). 170 leaves (including b4 and G6 blank), with pagination and signatures. Roman type, German plant names in gothic type. Shoulder-notes. Title printed in red and black within woodcut allegorical border, full-page coat of arms of Strassburg on A4v printed in red and black, text of a1r, c1r and C1v within the same ornamental woodcut border, several large historiated woodcut initials, head- and tail-pieces, and 86 WOODCUTS BY HANS WEIDITZ, most full-page.
FIRST EDITION OF THE FIRST BOTANICAL BOOK TO CONTAIN REALISTIC AND ACCURATE ILLUSTRATIONS. Brunfels has been called the "first great mind in modern botany" (Hunt), but this honor is due less to his still quite traditional text than to his choice of illustrator and his insistence that the illustrations be "living portraits of plants". The magnificent woodcuts, possibly executed by Weiditz himself, were taken from watercolors drawn directly from nature (77 of which are preserved in the Platter Herbarium in Bern). "The plants were keenly observed and drawn with a vigorous realism that sometimes went beyond the needs of botany. If a plant had a broken stem or a worm-eaten leaf, that was the way it was shown. Except for an occasional excess, Weiditz had a superb grasp of plant structure" (Anderson, An Illustrated History of the Herbals, p. 122). "A whole world separates these vigorous, well-observed drawings from even the best figures in the German Herbarius [ie., the Gart der Gesundheit] of 1485. We are reminded at once of Dürer, and much of Weiditz's work has in fact been falsely attributed at one time or another to that great master, or to Burgkmair" (Blunt, p. 47).
This first edition was followed by a second volume, published in 1531-32, and a third volume, in 1536-39 (the third volume published after Brunfels's death and illustrated after different artists). All three volumes were followed by several reeditions. The second edition of vol. 1 (see following lot) was a nearly exact page for page reprint of this much rarer first edition. Weiditz's cuts were copied by Christian Egenolph in Frankfurt, who included them in his 1533 edition of Eucharius Rösslin's Kreutterbuch, but Schott sued successfully for recovery of the pirate blocks and actually used them in 1534 for an edition of his own, whimsically entitled Kreutterbuch Contrafayt.
Adams B2923 (2 copies, both imperfect); Blunt p. 45-48; Blunt and Raphael, pp. 120-123; Hunt I, 30 (later editions, cf. p. 40); Nissen BBI 257 Ia; Stafleu TL-2 852; Stillwell Science IV, 606; Ahumada 27.
Provenance: "Ad cardo benedictus 1559", inscription inside upper cover; title inscription "Ad usum Joannis Slinghe (?)", a few marginalia in the same hand; neat annotations in an early hand in two shades of brown ink, giving French plant names; watermark traced in ink on final blank leaf; Juan Carlos Ahumada, bookplate and ink stamp in margin of title; the present owner.