With an Engraving of Besler’s Wunderkammer & 31 Engraved Plates of Specimens

Besler, Basilius (1561-1629)

Continvatio rariorvm et aspectv dignorvm varii generis quae collegit et svis impensis aeri ad vivvm incidi cvravit atqve evvlgavit

Nuremberg, by the author, [chronogram date] 1622


Oblong Quarto: 29.2 x 20.5 cm. Contents: Engraved title page, 1 leaf of letterpress, 31 engraved plates. Complete.

FIRST EDITION THUS: Comprising the SECOND EDITION of the 1616 “Fasciculus” with the addition of 7 new plates.

Bound in modern ivory vellum. Printed on fine paper. Title mounted, one leaf shaved at the head just affecting the image. This and another leaf probably supplied at an early date.

This work comprises an engraved title page (depicting Besler and an assistant showing a visitor the specimens in his wunderkammer), one letterpress dedication leaf, and 31 engraved plates of specimens. The plates are headed ‘Animalia’ (4), ‘Marina’ (6), ‘Conchilia’ (2), ‘Fructus’ (6), and ‘Lapides’ (13). Of these, one of the ‘Fructus’ plates and six of the ‘Lapides’ plates are new to this edition.

Both the Fasciculus and Continuatio are quite rare. For the U.S., OCLC records only 2 copies of the Fasciculus (Harvard and Yale) and only 5 copies of the Continuatio (Chicago Botanic Garden, Linda Hall, Getty, Johns Hopkins, and Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences.)

Basil Besler (1561-1629), compiler of the celebrated Hortus Eystettensis, 1613, was a Nuremberg apothecary and one of the first to assemble a natural history Wunderkammer. This is the first work to illustrate such a cabinet in Germany, and its interior is depicted on the engraved title/frontispiece, with Besler exhibiting the contents to a visitor. This is one of the few catalogues to be published by the owner of such a collection.

The collection included a wide variety of animals, including snakes, a crocodile, and an armadillo; fruits, spices and nuts from Brazil and Mauritius; shells and coral and a fine mineral and fossil section with ammonites and belemnites, bezoars, glossopetrae (fossil sharks’ teeth, still regarded as curious stones) and a stone in the form of a hand.

The engraved title/frontispiece is by Hans Troschel after Petrus Iselburg, who were also presumably responsible for the plates, or at least the original 24. The frontispiece is identical to that of the 1616 Fasciculus, with only the word ‘Fasciculus’ changed to ‘Continuatio’ and the chronogram date altered to 1622. The single letterpress leaf of dedication to the Nuremberg Senate, reprinted from the 1616 Fasciculus, is found in only some copies.

The frontispiece shows Besler and a visitor standing by an open doorway to the left. Besler is pointing to a banner in the center that bears the title and imprint. From the ceiling depend snakes, a porcupine fish, and coconuts. On a shelf above the doorway are various books and pieces of coral. On the wall opposite are various shells, the shell of a turtle, a chameleon, a footless bird-of-paradise, etc. There are drawers labeled ‘Conchylia’, ‘Fructus’, and ‘Lapides’. In the foreground on the floor there is an armadillo, a crocodile, an iguana, and two other lizards, while a servant advances towards Besler and his guest holding out a large fossil reptile skull.

Wellcome 826; Nissen ZBI 345