FUCHS, Leonhard (1501-1566). Historia Stirpium Commentarii insignes. Basel: Officina Isingriniana, 1542.
2° (362 x 231mm). Greek, roman and italic types. 509 full-page botanical woodcuts, 3 smaller cuts in the text, by Veit Rudolph Speckle after Heinrich Füllmauer and Albert Meyer, full-page full-length portrait of Fuchs on title verso, portraits of the 3 artists on fff5r, printer's device on title, repeated on final verso, ALL WOODCUTS FULLY COLOURED BY A CONTEMPORARY HAND, historiated initials in several sizes. (Title with marginal repairs and rehinged with its conjugate, light dampstaining in first and final few quires, occasional short marginal repairs, just touching text or image in about 6 leaves, tiny marginal worming in a few quires.) French 18th-century calf, gilt spine with later label, red speckled edges (scuffed, repaired at joints and spine ends). Provenance: each plant captioned in French in a contemporary hand (a few trimmed) -- Joseph Antoine Crozat, marquis de Tugny (1699-1750; inscription: Ex Bibliotheca D. Crozat in Suprema Parisiensi Curia Praesidis) - Arpad Plesch (sale Sotheby's, 17 June 1975, lot 272, to:) -- Robert de Belder (1921-95; sold to Bernard Quaritch Ltd., not included in the sale at Sotheby's, April 1987).
THE PLESCH-DE BELDER COPY OF THE FIRST EDITION, WITH FINE AND FULL PUBLISHER'S COLOURING. Although most copies survive uncoloured, copies were available in a deluxe, coloured state based on the artist's original coloured drawings, no longer extant. Colouring is integral to the text, and Fuchs specifies it in several instances. The colouring in the present copy responds to the text in a carefully-applied, delicate but vibrant palette. (Cf. Arber, "The colouring of sixteenth-century herbals", Nature, 145, 1940.)
Fuchs's herbal earned its reputation as "perhaps the most celebrated and most beautiful herbal ever published" (PMM) by virtue of its text and its woodcut illustrations. Fuchs provided accurate botanical descriptions for each plant, in addition to information about their medicinal use, and an ideal botanical illustration. Fuchs and his artists (honoured in woodcut portraits at the end - the first such occurrence in print) worked from actual specimens, largely grown in Fuchs's garden at Tübingen, taking care to show its roots, stalk, leaves, flowers, seeds and fruits. He chose accuracy over artistic interpretation and intended his herbal to be consulted as much, if not more, for the illustrations as the text. The woodcuts were indeed highly influential. They were reused in later editions, successfully compressed for smaller-format editions, copied in the works of Bock, Dodoens, William Turner and others, and pirated in contemporary botanical works. Fuchs is the oldest source to be cited by Linnaeus in his ground-breaking Species plantarum, and several plant names conferred by Fuchs are retained today. William Morris and Augustus John were among more modern admirers of the work; both men owned a copy. In addition to the over 400 European plants described are 100 foreign plants, including the first description of several recently-discovered American plants such as maize, pumpkin, chili pepper, and snap bean.
Adams F-1099; Davies, Murray German 175; Grolier/Norman 17; Hunt 48; Nissen BBI 658; PMM 69; Pritzel 3138.