HIERONYMOUS BOCK (1498-1554)
De stirpium commentarium libri tres... his accesserunt a fronte Praefationes duae altera Conradi Gesner... adiectus est Benedicti Textoris... de Stirpium differentiis... Libellus. Translated from German by David Kyber. Strassburg: Wendel Rihel, 1552. 4 (224 x 160mm). Ornamental initials, printer's device at end, woodcut portrait of Bock by David Kandel, 568 woodcuts of plants by David Kandel, ALL HAND-COLOURED BY A CONTEMPORARY HAND. (Ink ownership stamp removed from title, light worming at beginning and end.) 18th-century Dutch mottled calf, spine gilt with red morocco label in second compartment (neat repairs to joints and foot of spine), modern cloth box. Provenance: J. van Spyk Vermeulen (18th-century inscription); ink library-stamp (erased from title and front endpapers); Arpad Plesch (booklabel, sale, Sotheby's 16 June 1975, lot 71).
FIRST LATIN EDITION, FINELY COLOURED IN A CONTEMPORARY HAND. Bock is now considered, along with Otto Brunfels and Leonhard Fuchs, as one of the three German fathers of modern botany. He had been urged by Brunfels to write his own botanical work, having made significant contributions to Brunfels' work. He differed from his contemporaries in that he decided to write in German and to rely largely on his own observations rather than the descriptions of Dioscorides and other earlier authors. His observations are remarkably clear and generally accurate, and 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 17th century to feel the necessity for some sort of classification" (Hunt.)
There are three noteworthy editions of this work, all published in Strassburg by Wendel Rihel. The first edition, with German text and no illustrations, was published in 1539. The second edition in German (the first illustrated edition with 477 woodcuts in the text) appeared in 1546. The present edition is arguably the most desirable of the three with the text extended by the the inclusion of Tessier's work, Conrad Gessner's bibliography of botanical writers and the number of woodcuts increased by almost 100. While many of the woodcuts are copies from Fuchs and Brunfels, a number are original designs by David Kandel which often charmingly depict people, animals or insects as well as the intended plant. Hunt 66; Nissen BBI 183; Stafleu & Cowan 576.