Columbine, from Der Gart der Gesundheit, 1485
Beaver, from Der Gart der Gesundheit, 1485

1. Der Gart der Gesundheit.Mainz: Peter Schoeffer, 1485.

The herbal was a medieval invention, a guide book to medicinal plants and their therapeutic uses. The text was ultimately derived from Dioscorides' De materia medica, and the illustrations were often crude copies from earlier images, so that the plants were often unrecognizable.

When Peter Schoeffer printed his Garden of Health in vernacular German in 1485, he took the unusual step of including a number of new illustrations, drawn from life, including this attractive columbine.

The color was added by hand, and rather crudely, as was typical in the early days of printing. Since some animal products, such as musk, ivory, and castor oil, had medicinal uses, Schoeffer included a small number of animals as well.

This beaver, unlike the columbine, probably was not drawn from life. The contrast of the two images demonstrates the value of a return to first-hand observation of nature.

Linda hall Library