Hortus Sanitatis. Mainz: Jacob Meydenbach, 23 June 1491.
Chancery folio, 284 x 195mm. (11 3/16 x 7 5/8 in.), old vellum, recased, now loose in casing, blank leaf bound in between A1 and A2 (lined in red for annotations) and three annotated leaves bound in at end, repairs to gutter of title-leaf and one short marginal tear catching border of woodcut on verso, quire 2v with gutters renewed and vertical creasing, 7 or 8 wormholes through text block of quires A-E, one or two wormholes throughout, hole to ee6 catching 3 letters, about eight leaves with short marginal tears, four leaves with small adhesive stains obscuring a few letters, occasional minor dampstaining to upper margins.
Collation as given in Hunt, I, 8. 453 leaves (of 454, lacking final blank), with signatures. Variant setting of 2D1.6 as in Fairfax Murray copy. Types: title in woodcut capitals, 2:155 (headings and headlines), 1:92 (text). Double column. 48 lines and headlines. Seven full-page woodcuts, 1066 smaller woodcuts (one per chapter). Spaces for initials with guide letters. Initials and some paragraph marks and underlinings supplied in red.
FIRST EDITION OF "PERHAPS THE MOST IMPORTANT MEDICAL BOOK PRINTED BEFORE 1500" (Hunt). The third and broadest in scope of the three great fifteenth-century herbals, the Hortus Sanitatis is an encyclopaedic survey of the plant, animal and mineral kingdoms and their medical applications; the last great medieval compilation of natural history, it includes much traditional lore, and its many authorities are scrupulously cited. The book is divided into five major "treatises", on plants, animals, birds, fish and precious stones, with an additional shorter treatise on urines. The text of the "Tractatus de herbis" differs substantially from the Gart der Gesundheit, and the traditional bibliographic reference to these historically related but very different works as the German and Latin versions of the Hortus Sanitatis is incorrect (in the sixteenth-century the Hortus was translated into German [cf. lot --], but there are no Latin versions of the Gart).
409 of the 530 botanical woodcuts were based on the cuts of Schönsperger's smaller format Gart der Gesundheit editions, the remainder being specially commissioned for this edition. The woodcuts of the other sections belong to several different series, cut by engravers of various levels of skill. They include a series of genre scenes showing workmen at their labors, doctors with patients, etc., probably cut by the same engraver who was responsible for the full-page woodcuts. The three succeeding German incunable editions, printed by Johann Prüss, were illustrated with copies of these cuts.
HC 8944*; Klebs 509.1; Klebs Hortus 1; Early Herbals 45; Polain (B) 2003; Schreiber 4247; Schramm XV, p. 7; Oates 55; IGI 4900; Proctor 160; BMC I 44 (IB 343 and 344, both imperfect); Fairfax Murray German 193; Hunt I, 8; Schäfer/von Arnim 170; Stillwell
Science III, 424 and IV, 663; Ahumada 15; Goff H-486.
Provenance: Copious contemporary marginalia in Latin and German (cropped), three leaves bound in at end bearing a manuscript index (rubricated) in the same hand, a note at end stating that the index was completed in 1493; a quire of six leaves, three with another ms. index in a different hand (also rubricated), loosely inserted. Rubrication, first index, and the greater part of the marginalia (themselves rubricated) probably executed by one Doctor Siber, whose inscriptions appear on A2r: "Doctoris Siber can(onici) et scol(aris) ec(clesie) S(ancti) P(etri?) Bas(ilensis?) 1491", M8v: "Doc(toris) Siber 1493...de provintia algoie alte suevie et ex opido imp(er)ilai wangen nomine...", and E5v: "Pro doctore Siber"; Juan Carlos Ahumada, bookplate and ink stamps on title leaf and lower flyleaf; the present owner.