A spread from the 1543 edition of Leonhart Fuchs’ Neu Kreuterbuch sold for £12,500 by Dominic Winter.

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Printed in Basel and preceded only by a 1542, Latin text edition, Leonhart Fuchs’ Neu Kreüterbuch had been expanded to include five new woodcuts, bringing the overall total to 517, and it was intended to bring this great work to a wider audience than that of the Latin edition, which had been aimed primarily at the academic world.

Mainly based on plants in Fuchs’ own gardens at Tubingen, the original drawings by Albert Meyer were transferred onto woodblocks by Heinrich Fullmaurer and cut onto those blocks by Viet Rudolph Speckle. As part of the process of making the work more widely accessible, Fuchs also augmented the 1543 edition with an index of illnesses that were treatable with herbs.

In a near contemporary but defective binding of blind-stamped pigskin over wooden boards, this copy also showed a certain amount of spotting and staining internally, and sold for £12,500 to an online buyer.

It can be a great deal more expensive. Auction records show half a dozen or so copies, a number of them with the illustrations coloured, that have sold at sums up to £45,000.

And at Sotheby’s in 2004 a very fine copy indeed, one in which those coloured plates were mostly highlighted in gold and silver and which boasted a fine and contemporary morocco gilt binding, sold at £70,000.