Albrecht Dürer (1471 – 1528) painter, printmaker, engraver, mathematician, and theorist

Albrecht Dürer (1471 – 1528) painter, printmaker, engraver, mathematician, and theorist

Dream Vision

Albrecht Dürer, Dream Vision. 9 June 1525. Watercolour on paper

In the year 1525 between Wednesday and Thursday (7 – 8 June) after Whitsunday during the night I saw this appearance in my sleep, how many great waters fell from heaven. The first struck the earth about four miles away from me with a terrific force, with tremendous clamour and clash, drowning the whole land.  I was so sore afraid that I awoke from it before the other waters fell.  And the waters which had fallen were very abundant.  Some of them fell further away, some nearer, and they came down from such a great height that they all seemed to fall with equal slowness.  But when the first water, which hit the earth, was almost approaching, it fell with such swiftness, wind and roaring, that I was so frightened when I awoke that my whole body trembled and for a long while I could not come to myself.  So when I arose in the morning I painted above here as I had seen it.  God turn all things to the best.
Albrecht Dürer (21 May 1471 – 6 April 1528)
Translated in A. Rosenthal, “Dürer’s dream of 1525,” Burlington Magazine 69 (August 1936)

`How often do I see great art in my sleep, but on waking cannot recall it; as soon as I awake, my memory forgets it.’
Albrecht Dürer,  Speis der maier knaben (Nourishment for Young Painters), c. 1515

A Greyhound

greyhound durerAlbrecht Dürer (1471-1528)
Brush and ink, the outlines indented with a stylus


bloodrootJacob Bigelow (1787-1879)

Botanical Illustrators at Work

fuchs-botanical-illustrators-at-work-great-herbalLeonhart Fuchs’ De historia stirpium commentarii insignes 1542

German physician and botanist Leonhard Fuchs published De historia stirpium (On the History of Plants) in Basel at the office of printer Michael Isengrin. Fuchs’s herbal was illustrated with full-page woodcut illustrations drawn by Albrecht Meyer, copied onto the blocks by Heinrich Füllmaurer and cut by Veit Rudolf Speckle; the artists’ self-portraits appear on the final leaf.

Describing and illustrating 400 native German and 100 foreign plants– wild and domestic—in alphabetical order, with a discussion of their medical uses, De historia stirpium was probably inspired by the pioneering effort of Otto Brunfels, whose Herbarum vivae imagines had appeared twelve years earlier.  “These two works have rightly been ascribed importance in the history of botany, and for two reasons.  In the first place they established the requisites of botanical illustration—verisimilitude in form and habit, and accuracy of significant detail. . . . Secondly they provided a corpus of plant species which were identifiable with a considerable degree of certainty by any reasonably careful observer, no matter by what classical or vernacular names they were called. . .”
(Alan Morton, History of Botanical Science).

Fuchs’s herbal is also remarkable for containing the first glossary of botanical terms, for providing the first depictions of a number of American plants, including pumpkins and maize, and for its generous tribute to the artists Meyer, Füllmaurer and Speckle, whose self-portraits appear on the last leaf.  This tribute to the artists may be unique among sixteenth century scientific works, many of which were illustrated by unidentified artists, or artists identified by name only. It is especially unusual for the name of the artist who transferred the drawings onto the woodblocks to be recorded, let alone for that artist to be portrayed.

The plant species Fuchsia, named after Fuchs, was discovered on Santo Domingo in the Caribbean in 1696 by the French scientist Dom Charles Plumier, who published the first description. The color fuchsia is also named for Fuchs, describing the purplish-red of the shrub’s flowers.

“Fuchs’s herbal exists in both hand-colored and uncolored versions. While some colored copies may have been painted by their owners after purchase, as was sometimes done in books of this nature, there is sufficient evidence to show that copies were also colored for the publisher Isingrin, who presumably made use of the artist’s original drawings. Such ‘original colored’ copies possess many features in common—for example, the illustration of the rose has the left shoot bearing white flowers and the right shoot red flowers, and the plum tree shows yellow fruits on the left, blue fruits in the center, and reddish fruits on the right—and it is these features that permit one to distinguish between original colored copies and those colored later by private owners. The coloring in the colored copies issued by the publisher accords well with Fuchs’s descriptions in the text, which suggest that Fuchs had some control over the painting”
(Norman, One Hundred Books Famous in Medicine [1995] no. 17, pp. 66-67).

Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 846.
Secret Gardener is grateful to the wonderful website “The History of Information,” and the generous and learned Jeremy Norman.


Published in: on October 2, 2011 at 11:15 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

Italian Porcupine

Ulisse Aldrovandi (11 September 1522 – 4 May 1605)

Published in: on August 9, 2011 at 4:20 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , ,


The snail moves like a
Hovercraft, held up by a
Rubber cushion of itself,
Sharing its secret
With the hedgehog. The hedgehog
Shares its secret with no one.
We say, Hedgehog, come out
Of yourself and we will love you.
We mean no harm. We want
Only to listen to what
You have to say. We want
Your answers to our questions.
The hedgehog gives nothing
Away, keeping itself to itself.
We wonder what a hedgehog
Has to hide, why it so distrusts.
We forget the god
under this crown of thorns.
We forget that never again
will a god trust in the world.
Paul Muldoon

Typvs Vniversalis

Sebastian Münster 1489-1552

Claudius Ptolemaeus (Ptolemy), greatest of all geographers and cartographers of classical antiquity, lived in Alexandria, Egypt during the second half of the second century AD. Successive editions of Ptolemy’s Atlas, Geographia, continued to be produced in many editions in the fifteenth, sixteenth, and early seventeenth centuries as the basis of development in western cartography.
This world map, from a 1540/42 edition of Ptolemy’s Geographia, shows the full twelve winds designated by Aristotle. The twelve-wind system remained throughout the Middle Ages as the one most commonly used. In keeping with the mythologic origin of winds for direction finding, they are of necessity placed beyond the confines of the known world–beyond the earth itself, in an outer, celestial sphere.

King Aeolus, lord of wind and cloud, ruler of contending winds and moaning gales, controlled their fury lest they flay the sea into a great uproar. So great was his power, that Agamemnon, leader of the Greek expedition to destroy Troy, sacrificed his daughter Iphigeneia to secure a favorable wind for his voyage across the sea.
Winds, and the place from which they blew, were the earliest means of dividing the horizon into named parts in order to express direction. The ancients used various forms of wind systems: Homer described four winds, consisting of the four cardinal points we now call north, south, east, and west; Pliny and Posidonius recognized eight winds, whereas Aristotle enumerated twelve.

Wild Boar Piglet