In this period, it was fashionable among the aristocracy in Central Europe to grow plants native to the Mediterranean and the tropics, despite the cold winter climate. They built tall greenhouses to shelter the trees during the winter, and had the plants moved outdoors in the summer. Johann Christoph Volckamer was one such person — a wealthy Nuremberg silk merchant with a fine citrus greenhouse and garden. He engaged several artists and engravers to produce Nürnbergische Hesperides, a two-volume work featuring his collection. The first volume was published in 1708, and the continuation volume in 1714. Each consists of four parts on citrus fruits and one part devoted to other flowering plants or fruits. According to scholar Gordon Dunthorne, this was the first botanical set to focus almost solely on fruit.
The prints follow a distinctive artistic format in which the fruit or flowers are displayed in monumental scale in bird’s-eye views above landscapes of the formal gardens, palazzos and country houses where they were grown. Fruits are generally shown flying in the sky, though sometimes other compositions are employed, such as oversized plants towering over Lilliputian landscapes. A floating ribbon wrapped around each specimen bears its name. The gardens shown are in Germany, Austria and northern Italy, especially around Verona, and include Volckamer’s garden, Gostenhof. These compositions are described by scholar Sandra Raphael as follows: “The fruit and gardens in most of the plates – spherical oranges, lemons, and citrons drifting like eccentric balloons above miniature landscapes – make pleasingly surreal compositions….”
Full Title: Nürnbergische Hesperides, oder gründliche Beschreibung der Edlen Citronat, Citronen und Pomerantzen-Früchte …Auf das accurateste in Kupffer gestochen, in Vier Theile eingetheilet und mit nützlichen Anmerckungen erkläret. Beneben der Flora, oder Curiosen Vorstellung Verschiedener raren Blumen … Wie auch einem Bericht von denen in des Authoris Garten stehenden Columnis Milliaribus
[Nuremberg Hesperides, or thorough description of the noble citron and bitter orange fruits…With the most accurate copperplate engravings, divided in four parts and with useful explanatory notes. Beneben of the Flora, or representation of different rare flowers…as well as being a record of those in the author’s garden, Columnis Milliaribus]
Condition: Generally very good, the colors bright, the paper with the usual light overall toning, wear, soft creases. Some margins very close or within platemark, some upper plate number clipped, all as issued.
Blunt, Wilfred, rev. by Stearn, William T. The Art of Botanical Illustration. Woodbridge, Suffolk, England: Antique Collectors Club, 1994. p. 154.
Dunthorne, Gordon. Flower and Fruit Prints of the 18th and Early 19th Centuries. Their History, Makers and Uses, with a Catalogue Raisonne of the Works in Which They Are Found. Washington, D.C.: Published by the Author, 1938. 323.
Feldmann, Reinhard. Blüten und Blätter. Illustrierte Kräuter- und Pflanzenbücher aus fünf Jahrhunderten. Muenster, Germany: 1996. 43.
“Johann Christoph Volkamer (Volckamer): Nürbergisches Hesperides oder gründliche Beschreibung.” Archbishop Chateau and Gardens in Kromeriz. 2002-2003. http://digi.azz.cz/bookinfo.php?BookID=21&lng=2 (4 March 2009).
Lanckoronska, Maria and Richard Öhler. Buchillustration Des XVIII. Jahrhunderts in Deutschland, Osterreich Und Der Schweitz: Dritter Teil. Leipzig: Die Spamer, 1934. l, 43.
The Magnificent Botanical Library of the Stiftung fur Botanik, VaduzLiechtenstein Collected by the late Arpad Plesch. London: Sotheby & Co., 1975. 798.
Nissen, Claus. Die Botanische Buchillustration: ihre Geschichte und Bibliographie. Stuttgart: 1951-66. 2076.
Pritzel, Georg August. Thesaurus Literaturae Botanicae Omnium Gentium. Milan: 1950. 9848.
Sitwell, Sacheverell. Great Flower Books, 1700-1900. New York: The Atlantic Monthly Press, 1990. p. 148.
Raphael, Sandra. An Oak Spring Pomona. A Selection of the Rare Books on Fruit in the OakSpringGarden Library. Upperville, VA: Oak Spring Garden Library; New Haven: Distributed by Yale University Press, 1990. 73.
Wimmer, Clemens Alexander and Iris Lauterbach. Bibliographie der vor 1750 Erschienenen Deutschen Gartenbücher. Nördlingen: Alfons Uhl, 2003. pp. 12 and 196.