Besler’s Wunderkammer. Illustrated with 34 Engraved plates

NATURAL HISTORY. Besler, Michael Rupert (1607-1661); Besler, Basilius (1561-1629)

Gazophylacium Rerum Naturalium e regno vegetabili, animali et minerali depromptarum, nunquam hactenus in Lucem editarum, cum figuris aeneis ad vivum incisis.

Leipzig and Frankfurt: Johann Herbort Kloss, 1716


Folio: 38.6 x 26.4 cm. 2 unsigned leaves (title page and index leaf), 34 engraved plates numbered 2 to 35. Complete.

SECOND EDITION, printed from the original copperplates of the 1642 first edition. Both editions are extremely rare.

Bound in contemporary quarter sheep and marbled boards, rebacked, and with the speckled paper boards restored. With a letterpress title page (in red and black with a small engraved vignette) and a letterpress index leaf, followed by 34 engraved plates. The engravings are in excellent condition throughout.

“A Treasury of Natural Things from the Vegetable, Animal, and Mineral Kingdoms”:

Basilius Besler (1561-1629), compiler of the celebrated Hortus Eystettensis, 1613, was a Nuremberg apothecary, one of the most important botanists of his time, and a leading citizen of Nuremberg. Inspired by the gabinetti of Italian collectors, Besler was the first German to assemble a natural history Wunderkammer. In 1616 Besler published a slim volume (fasciculus), consisting of 24 engraved plates illustrating some of his specimens.

Besler’s nephew, Michael Rupert Besler, inherited Basilius’ museum and expended it. The work published here catalogs his additions. The book comprises a printed title and 34 engraved plates, with descriptive captions, of animal, vegetable, and mineral specimens. There are also ethnographic artifacts.

“These specimens include a unicorn horn, the beak of a hornbill, a bird of paradise, a carved nautilus shell, an “Arcimboldo” grotesque of shells, pyritzed ammonites, asbestos, “ruin” marble, engraved gems and antique coins. Rare plants and birds are illustrated along with ethnological items such as a Brazilian Indian girdle made from nuts of the Brazilian tree Cerbera ahovai.”(Schuh)

Cobres, Deliciæ Cobresianæ, p. 102 no. 10; Nissen ZBI, 346; Pritzel No. 747; Hunt No 238 (1642 edition)