Woodcut
Leonhart Fuchs (1501—1566).
De historia stirpium commentarii insignes.
Basel: Michael Isingrin, 1542
Spencer Collection, The New York Public Library

 
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Leonhart Fuchs, a physician and professor of medicine, was quite famous on the Continent and very much in demand as a physician and teacher. His reputation became international in scope after his successful treatment of victims of a plague-like epidemic that swept Germany in 1529. A book of medical instruction and prayers against the plague, printed at the end of the sixteenth century in England with the title A worthy practice of the moste learned Phisition Maister Leonerd Fuchsius . . ., attests that his reputation had reached even England.

This botanical masterpiece by Fuchs contains over four hundred native German plants and about one hundred foreign plants. The descriptions of the plants are not original, but the illustrations are quite magnificent, far surpassing those in Brunfels's Herbarum. To emphasize the importance of the process of creating the illustrations, Fuchs included portraits of the three artists as a kind of colophon to the book. Albrecht Meyer (upper right) is shown drawing the design from a live plant; Heinrich Füllmauer (upper left) is shown transferring the drawing to the woodblock; and Veit Rudolf Speckle, the engraver or sculptor, is shown below. This was the first time that such an acknowledgment had appeared in a printed book.


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