Gart der Gesundheit. Augsburg: [Johann Schönsperger], 14 August 1485.
Median folio, 302 x 215mm. (11 7/8 x 8 1/2 in.), contemporary blind-stamped calf over wooden boards, one (of two) brass catches for fore-edge clasps, bosses removed, fifteenth-century paper manuscript label on upper cover, rebacked in the eighteenth-century(?) in unfinished reversed goatskin or sheepskin, nineteenth-century calf gilt lettering-pieces on spine, edges plain with leather index tabs to last indices; an Augsburg binding (Kyriss shop 77); lower cover detached, covers abraded and slightly wormed; first leaf (full-page woodcut) renewed at gutter and with a few tiny wormholes, single wormhole through text block of last 25 leaves, additional repaired wormholes to last eight leaves, the few affected letters or words skillfully supplied in manuscript facsimile, small hole to c7 affecting woodcut and three letters on verso, v2 and v7 each with tiny tears or cracks on the woodcuts caused by drying of coloring, the cut on v2 with slightly rubbed spot, short marginal tears to about a dozen leaves, last leaf detaching and with one-inch tear and old tape repair at inner margins, minor creasing to approximately 23 leaves, one or two minor stains, a few leaves discolored or lightly foxed, occasional offsetting of coloring or of printer's ink, some minor marginal dampstaining.
Collation: a-z A-V T V8 X10. 369 leaves (of 370, lacks last blank leaf). Contents: a1r blank, a1v: full-page woodcut of a group of thirteen scholars in a garden setting, a2r-a2r: Preface, a2v blank; a3r-V2v: Text (435 numbered chapters), V3r-V4v: first index, listing remedies by their form (root, seed, mineral, etc.) or their medicinal action, V5r-V8v: chapter on diagnosis of urine, 2T1r-X4v: second index, grouping remedies under name of disease or symptom, X5r-X9r: third index, alphabetical list of the Latin chapter headings, X9v blank, X10 blank (lacking). Type: 1:120. 38 lines. Opening full-page woodcut, cut on V5r of a woman (on the left) with a physician holding a urine flask, and 379 smaller woodcuts of plants (368) and animals (11, elephant repeated), THE WOODCUTS FINELY COLORED IN A CONTEMPORARY HAND, seven-line initial O on a2r (colored), spaces for initials, printed paragraph marks; unrubricated. Blind impressions of printing furniture in many lower margins, a few with traces of inking.
Second edition of "A LANDMARK IN THE HISTORY OF BOTANICAL ILLUSTRATION, ONE WHICH MARKED PERHAPS THE GREATEST SINGLE STEP EVER MADE IN THAT ART" (Hunt I, 5, paraphrasing Klebs, Incunabula scientifica et medica). One year after the publication of his enormously successful Latin Herbarius, Peter Schoeffer published an enlarged vernacular edition of the text, covering the entire known pharmacy of the period. Although the book had undoubtedly been in preparation for some time, its final characteristics may have been influenced by the success of the earlier work. Intended to appeal to a more general reading public, the Gart was rendered more accessible not only through its language--it is "one of the most extensive early printed works in German" (Hunt), and one of the first scientific incunables printed in the vernacular--but also through the inclusion of adequate indices and the use of larger, more numerous and more accurate woodcuts.
The text, formerly attributed to Johann von Cube or Johann Wonnecke of Kaub, town physician of Frankfurt, named in chapter 76, includes chapters on the medical applications of such diverse materials as precious metals, water, butter, various animals, etc., as well as of plants. But the primary importance of the Gart lies in its illustrations, a large proportion of which (approximately 65 of the 379), were clearly drawn from nature."Though they have none of the subtlety of Dürer's plant studies and none of the craftsmanship of his woodcuts, they show an honest attempt to represent the structure and habits of the flowers portrayed" (Blunt, p. 36). "[These] delineations of plants, breaking away from the traditional stylized woodcut, were not only unsurpassed, but unequalled for nearly half a century" (Hunt), until the publication of Brunfels's Herbarum vivae eicones in 1530.
Schoeffer's calculations proved correct, but he reaped little profit from his work, which was pirated in a remarkably short time for such a large volume: this second edition, published barely six months after his Mainz edition, was the first of fourteen known fifteenth-century reeditions, seven of which were published by Schönsperger. Of all these reeditions this was the only one to be printed in the same large format and illustrated with full-size or nearly full-size copies (most reversed) of Schoeffer's woodcuts, all the later editions containing reduced copies. The frontispiece woodcut is a very close copy of the Schoeffer cut, and differs principally in the shield at the top, blank in the first edition, and bearing a pine cone, the emblem of Augsburg, here. RARE. No copies have appeared at auction, according to ABPC, in the past 60 or more years.
H 8949*; Klebs 507.2; Klebs Gart 2; Early Herbals 23; Schreiber 4333; Proctor 1763; BMC II 365 (IB 6287); Blunt, pp. 33-37; Blunt and Raphael, pp. 113-118; Hunt I, 5 (first edition); Nissen BBI 2267; Stillwell Science III, 379 (first edition); Ahumada 10; Goff G-98.
Provenance: Ownership inscription on first text page, "UV" (?); A few contemporary marginalia; Benedictine Monastery of St. Peter's, Salzburg, letterpress shelf-mark label dated 1767 and ms. inscription on first text leaf; Bundesdenkmalamt, Vienna, ink-stamp on front pastedown; with Gilhofer & Ranschburg, 1937 catalogue description loosely inserted, sold to?: Juan Carlos Ahumada, bookplate; the present owner.