FUCHS, Leonard (1501-1566). New Kreterbch. Basel: Michael Isingrin, 1543.
2 (382 x 240mm). Woodcut printer's device on title, large Isingrin device on final recto, full-page woodcut portrait of Fuchs on title verso, 517 botanical woodcuts by Viet Rudolph Speckle after Heinrich Fllmaurer and Albert Meyer, woodcut portraits of the three artists at end, ALL FINELY COLOURED BY A CONTEMPORARY ARTIST, woodcut historiated initials in several sizes. Sheets Zz2.5 and 3.4 reversed in binding. (Some staining and light spotting, title with repaired tears and blank fore-edge section replaced, tear in second leaf repaired with a few letters supplied in pen-and-ink facsimile, small marginal wormtracks in first 3 leaves, repaired tear in fo. CLXX, several discreet paper repairs.) Contemporary pigskin over wooden boards tooled in blind with running deer, cinquefoil and griffon stamps and numerous rolls, upper cover dated 1544, two brass fore-edge clasps (discreet repairs at extremities). Provenance: a few early corrections to the index; Dukes of Bavaria (engraved bookplate on front pastedown).
FIRST EDITION IN GERMAN, AUGMENTED AND WITH SIX ADDITIONAL WOODCUT FIGURES OF PLANTS, OF 'PERHAPS THE MOST CELEBRATED AND MOST BEAUTIFUL HERBAL EVER PUBLISHED' (PMM). Fuchs's great herbal was first published in 1542 in Latin. As he explains in the preface to the German edition, Fuchs wished to reach an audience broader than the Latinate scholar or physician for whom herbals had been a necessary medical tool throughout Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Fuchs realised that his own herbal could provide that knowledge not only to the specialist but also to the layman interested in plants and their popular remedies or simply interested in the natural world surrounding him. In preparing the German edition Fuchs took the opportunity to augment his text with an index of illnesses treatable with herbs, enlarged descriptions, and a further six plants illustrated with woodcuts: Hunerbis, Spitziger Wegetich, klein Schlangen kraut, Knabenkrautweible, das mittel, and Kuchenschell.
Fuchs provides a detailed 'plant portrait', both verbally and pictorially, to each plant. The fine woodcut botanical illustrations were drawn from life, largely based on plants in Fuchs's own garden at Tbingen, by Albert Meyer, transferred to the woodblock by Heinrich Fllmaurer, and cut into wood by Viet Rudolph Speckle; portraits of the three artists are included in the work, which is one of the earliest such honors accorded contributing artists. The woodcuts were highly influential in subsequent botanical illustration. They themselves were re-used in later editions of Fuchs's herbal, successfully compressed in the smaller-format editions of Fuchs, copied in the works of Bock, Dodoens, William Turner and others, and pirated in contemporary botanical works.
THE PRESENT COPY IS FINELY COLOURED AND ONCE FORMED PART OF THE ILLUSTRIOUS COLLECTION OF THE DUKES OF BAVARIA AT MUNICH. It retains its handsome contemporary binding dated 1544 and may have entered the Ducal library directly from the author, since personal links between Fuchs and the library are documented at a slightly later date. In one of the earliest surviving library accounts, a payment of 100 fl. was made to Leonard Fuchs in 1565 for a 'kreitter-puech', which Fuchs was intending to write (O. Hartig, 'Die Grndung der Mnchner Hofbibliothek durch Albrecht V und Johann Jakob Fugger', Abhandlungen der Kniglich Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschafter, 28, 1917, p.303). That payment almost certainly pertains to Fuchs's Opera didacta, published at Frankfurt in 1566-67, since a copy of part I of that work entered the library in 1566. Johnston, Cleveland Botanical 62; Nissen BBI 659; Pritzel 3139; Stafleu & Cowan 1910.