HORTUS SANITATIS. [Strassburg: Johann Prüss, c. 1499?].
Chancery folio, 309 x 210 mm., contemporary blind-stamped pigskin, sides tooled to a panel design with rolls, rosette stamps and square winged lion stamps, pair of leather and metal clasps (one torn), broken, backstrip detached, endpapers renewed, some mostly marginal worming at front and back, title marginally soiled and with a few small marginal repairs, 2nd leaf repaired at bottom, marginal tear to A5 grazing a letter, short marginal tear to O2, fol. Dd6 stained, woodcut of boars mating on K4r stained from formerly pasted down overslip (traces of paper remaining), occasional light foxing.
Collation: a8 b-k6 l8 m-r6 s8 t-z6 A6 B8 C-E6 F8 G-I6 K8 Aa-Bb6 Cc8 Dd-Ee6 Ff8 Gg6 Hh. Ii-Ll6 (a1r general title, a1v large woodcut of apothecary and physician, a2r-v prologue, a2v-I6r text of first part, De herbis, I6v blank, K1r section title to part 2, "Sequuuntur alii tractatus", with four woodcuts, of animals, fish, birds and man picking up rocks, each representing one of the 4 following parts and captioned appropriately, K1v full-page woodcut of skeleton with letterpress anatomical captions, K2r-O3v De animalibus, O4r-U5v De avibus, U5v-Aa5v De piscibus, Aa6r-Ff8v De Lapidibus, Gg1r, title "Tractatus de urinis", with woodcut of sick man in bed attended by three physicians, on verso the repeated apothecary cut, Gg2r-Hh4v De urinis, Ii1r-Ll6r tables, Ll6v blank). 360 leaves, unfoliated. Types: 4:300 (title), 15:210 (title); 13:146 (headlines); 84 (text). Double column, 55 lines and headlines, marginal letters keyed to indices. Over 1000 small woodcuts in text (including repeats), of plants, animals, and genre scenes (the cut on d5r, 2nd column, printed upside down). Numerous 7- and 8-line white-on-black and outline initials, 2- and 3-line Lombard initials.
Fourth edition, the third printed by Johann Prüss, of the Hortus Sanitatis, the third and broadest in scope of the three great fifteenth-century herbals, "PERHAPS THE MOST IMPORTANT MEDICAL BOOK PRINTED BEFORE 1500" (Hunt, p. 12). In 1491 Jacob Meydenbach of Mainz published this new and greatly enlarged Latin version of Schoeffer's Gart der Gesundheit, itself an expanded vernacular adaptation of the Latin Herbarius. Meydenbach expanded the traditional chapters on plants and entirely restructured the text, so that each chapter proceeds from a physical description of the plant and its synonyms to a discussion of its geographical origins and finally a list of its medicinal applications, the latter headed "Operationes". To this traditional section on plants he added a greatly enlarged section on animals, birds, fish, stones and minerals, whose medicinal properties had been only briefly alluded to in the Gart der Gesundheit, expanded the treatise on uroscopy, and made the indices easier to use through the use of key letters printed in the text margins. The woodcuts from Meydenbach's edition, particularly those relating to zoology and minerals, the most popular and frequently reprinted or copied section of the Hortus, were copied and imitated throughout Europe for nearly a century, in a variety of publications.
All three of Johann Prüss's editions of the Hortus sanitatis are undated; the first was printed no later than 21 October 1497, and this final edition has been variously ascribed to 1503 (Schreiber), 1507 (Fairfax Murray and CIBN), 1510? (BMC), and c. 1499 (Goff). Most of the plant woodcuts of the Prüss editions were previously used in Johann Grüninger's edition (1485/86) of the Gart der Gesundheit, while the majority of the remaining cuts are either direct or reverse copies of the Meydenbach cuts, some slightly reduced or with added background or different costumes for the human figures, and with additional single-line borders to the cuts in the second part. The three large woodcuts were first used in Grüninger's edition of Brunschwig's Chirurgia (4 July 1497); the apothecary cut was cut down slightly for the present edition. Prüss's editions of the Hortus sanitatis were the first to include the woodcut of the human skeleton, also borrowed from Brunschwig's Chirurgia; it was reproduced in later editions of the herbal and remained, according to Klebs (Early Herbals), "from a graphic viewpoint the best that was published... before Vesalius."
CIBN H-296; Fairfax Murray German 194; Goff H-489; HC 8943; Klebs/Becher 48; Klebs Hortus 4; Schreiber 4250.
Provenance: Vernon J. Watney, Cornbury Park (sale, Christie's London, 7 June 1967, lot 267), 19th-century ink stamp on front flyleaf -- Robert de Belder.