A Exceptionally Well-Preserved Copy of the First Printing of an Early and Influential Portable Herbal, with Excellent Period Coloring


(Frankfurt: Christian Egenolphus, 1535). 197 x 127 mm. (7 3/4 x 5"). 40, [4] leaves. Part I, only, of two. FIRST EDITION.

Modern printed paper boards with blue floral pattern. WITH 226 BOTANICAL WOODCUTS, ALL WITH BEAUTIFUL CONTEMPORARY HAND COLORING. Two leaves with pencilled marginalia. Nissen BBI 2344; Fairfax-Murray 196; Pritzel 2626 (1536 printing); Adams H-293. Not in Hunt. A couple of minor marginal stains, otherwise AN EXTREMELY FINE COPY, clean, crisp, and bright with saturated colors, in an unworn binding.

This is an outstanding copy, with notably pleasing hand coloring, of printer Christian Egenolph's first small format--and thus extremely practical--herbal, one of the most important and now highly sought-after early editions of its kind. The text that appears here, in addition to the title and index, is the name of each plant, given in Latin (in roman type) and German (in gothic type). The woodcuts show us the entire plant, from roots to bloom, and from two to five specimens are artfully arranged on each page. There are familiar garden flowers (rose, iris, violet, columbine), medicinal and culinary herbs (St. John's wort, rosemary, rue, mint), gourds and fruits, grains, and such potential intoxicants as wine grapes, hops, and cannabis. A second part of "Herbarum" with 65 woodcuts appeared in 1536; our first edition had proved so popular that it had sold out by then, and Egenolph found it necessary to print new copies to accompany part II. Egenolph [or Egenolff] (1502-55) was not a botanical writer, but had studied the humanities before entering the printing trade. He opened his Frankfurt workshop in 1530, and published about 400 volumes over the next quarter century, most of these popular vernacular works, many of them illustrated. The botanical cuts here are based on the illustrations by Weidlitz used in Brunfels' 1530 herbal, published by Johann Schott of Strassburg. Egenolph planned to use these woodcuts in a 1533 edition of Eucharius Rosslin's "Kreutterbuch," but Schott filed a lawsuit for plagiarism and succeeded in seizing the blocks. Undeterred, Egenolph ordered more woodcuts of the same design--those used here and in later editions of his herbals and those of his heirs. The printer's daughter Magdalena married Adam Lonicer, an employee of the press, who became director of the firm after Egenolph's death and produced a number of noted botanical books. Herbals tend to be heavily used books, and the present copy is remarkably free of the stains, thumbing, and tears that so often afflict such works. Only five other copies of our book seem to have appeared at auction in the past 40 years.