Anleitung zu der Pflanzenkenntniss und derselben nützlichsten Anwendung : mit hundert illuminirten Tafeln

A selection from Andersen Horticultural Library’s special collection is a 1774 Swiss botanical textbook by Salomon Schinz published in Zurich.  Its title, Anleitung zu der Pflanzenkenntniss und derselben nützlichsten Anwendung : mit hundert illuminirten Tafeln, can be roughly translated as “Guidance on Plant Knowledge and its Useful Application: with 100 Illuminated Panels.”

Of particular interest are the 100 illuminated panels in this book.  The illustrations were printed by reusing carved wood blocks created over 200 years earlier for the groundbreaking 1542 herbal De Historia Stirpium by Leonhart Fuchs.  The wood blocks were used for printing a few other herbals in the intervening years, but in 1774 were in the possession of the Gessner family, whose heiress, Magdalena, married Salomon Schinz.  Schinz was able to reuse 101 of the original 512 carved wood blocks created for Fuchs’s herbal.   In the early 1800s, after the carved wood blocks were used to print Salomon Schinz’s textbook, they were planed by students at the Institute of Applied Arts in Ulm, Germany, most likely to reuse the pear wood from which they were made.

Schinz’s beautiful wood print illustrations were “illuminated” or hand-colored by young orphans, both girls and boys, from the Waysenhaus (an orphanage) in Zurich during the winter of 1774.   In his preface, Salomon Schinz, a Swiss physician and botanist, speaks fondly of his young artists.   In comparison with the same images in Fuchs’s herbal, the orphans did a far better job of painting the illustrations than those employed by Fuchs in 1542.

One particularly useful chart found in Schinz’s book is a listing of illustrated plants, and the page number of that illustration in Fuchs’s De Historia Stirpium and the corresponding page number in several other reference books.   AHL’s librarian uses this index as a quick way to find illustrations in Fuchs’s very large volume.

Andersen Horticultural Library’s copy of Schinz’s textbook is unique in the vast amount of handwritten annotation throughout the volume – likely the result of student note-taking.   Gratefully the notes are neat and in beautiful handwriting.

Anleitung zu der Pflanzenkenntniss und derselben nützlichsten Anwendung : mit hundert illuminirten Tafeln is fully digitized in UMedia, along with two different copies of Fuchs’s De Historia Stirpium.