Plantarum seu Stirpium Icones.

Antwerp, Ex officina Christophori Plantini, 1581.


FIRST EDITION. Oblong 4to. 2 vol. in 1. pp. [viii], 816, 280, [xcii]. ***⁴, A-Z⁸, a-z⁸,2A-2E⁸; 2A-2R⁸, 2S-2X⁴, 2Y⁶. Ff in vol. 2 bound out of order, sig. E3 with woodcut overlay, leaves from a later French herbal bound in at end. Roman and Italic letter. Plantin’s woodcut compass device on title, woodcut initial, 2176 woodcuts in various sizes, two to three per page, (Count is according to Voet; other authorities give slightly different totals, owing to the difficulty of determining whether adjoining ill. are from a single block), contemporary autograph “Jacobi Riedinj Basilae 1584” on title, another, later, below and at side, bookplate of Robert James Shuttleworth on pastedown, copious manuscript notes throughout in Reidinger’s hand, additional notes in C18th and C19th hands. Title page fractionally dusty with a few ink smudges in lower margin, light age yellowing with some minor marginal spotting in places, occasional light waterstain to margins, the odd thumb mark, a few tears in blank outer margins, a ring­mark on AA5. A very good copy in C19th half vellum over marbled paper boards, a little soiled.

First edition of this very beautiful and copiously illustrated herbal; the work consists almost entirely of the woodcuts which Plantin had made for various botanical works, principally Clusius and Dodoens, printed 2 or 3 to a page, each with Latin name and a page reference to the Latin and Dutch editions of Lobel’s full text. After the Clusius edition of 1576, the Plantarum contains some of the earliest woodcuts of exotic plants, such as tulips, introduced to Europe from Asia Minor. “First edition of this collection of the fine woodcuts made by Plantin for various botanical works; the classification was made by de Lobel. It is a most useful reference work in connection with the study of 16th ­century botanical illustration.” (Hunt). The woodcuts were later used in the 1633 edition of Gerarde’s Herbal. The work also contains a reprint of the first illustration of tobacco; “Sana Sancta Indorum, siue Nicotiana Gallorum” v. 1, p. 584. The woodcut is reprinted from the ‘Stirpium adversaria nova’ by Pierre Pena and L’Obel, (London, 1571; Plantin’s ed., 1576, has title: Nova stirpium adversaria). This is described as the first recorded illustration of the tobacco plant in Arents, G. Tobacco, I, no. 13 (reproduced, p. 240).

L’Obel spent some time traveling and settled in England for about four years (1566–1571), probably as a protestant refugee. He lived on Lime Street, London in any area containing many protestant refugees from the continent and he came to know the English botanist, John Gerard. Lobelius’ first publication, Stirpium adversaria nova (1571) was written at the end of his stay in England, and upon settling in Antwerp. It was a collaboration with Pierre Pena, a fellow student and traveling companion, and was an important milestone in botanical history. The Stirpium included information on about 1,200 plants and was an early attempt to classify them into groups by the form of their leaves. In 1581 Plantin published this work, a collection combining the illustrations published in the works of Dodoens, L’Ecluse and de L’Obel, arranged by the latter, with the name of each plant in Latin. It includes an “Index synonymicvs stirpivm” in Latin, Dutch, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and English. The ‘Icones’ was meant to be used as a visual supplement to Lobel’s ‘Plantarum seu stirpium historia’ of 1576 and its Flemish translation, the ‘Kruydtboeck’, also printed by Plantin in 1581. There are cross references above each plant to these editions. Plantin commissioned woodblocks for the ‘Icones’ in 1580; these were reused in many other botanical publications of the Plantin press. The preliminary ‘Elenchus plantarum fere congenerum’ in which the plants are arranged according to their affinities, was cited by Linnaeus throughout his ‘Species plantarum’ of 1753 and thus contributed to the birth of modern binomial taxonomy. l’Obel studied under Rondelet at Montpellier and practiced medicine both in the Netherlands and England. He was appointed physician to William, the Silent. He returned to England in 1584, where he settled definitively, and where he made a valuable study of British flora, becoming botanist to King James I (DSB VIII pp. 435-6).

Adams L-1383. Pritzel 5549. Hunt botanical cat., I, 138. Nissen, C. Botanische Buchillustration, 1220. Bib. Belgica, L120. Voet, L. Plantin Press, 1580.

SN 2787

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