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Hauck Botanical Exhibit

Hieronymus Bock, 1498-1554

Kreuter Buch.
Strassburg: [Josiam Rihel], 1560.

Cover of Kreuter Buch
Cover

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Hieronymus Bock's greatest work, first published in Strassburg in 1539 as the New Kreuter Buch, is recognized for its dual importance for the study of botany and as a source of folklore and dialect of the German language as it was written and spoken in the 16th century. The first edition is without illustrations as Bock could not afford them. To compensate for the lack of visual representation of the plants, Bock described each specimen very clearly in the vernacular German spoken by the people.

Bock is lauded for his careful study of regional plants.

Subsequent editions of the Kreuter Buch were illustrated, the Latin edition of 1552 containing the greatest number. This edition includes illustrations from earlier editions, images based on woodcuts from works by Otto Brunfels and Leonhart Fuchs, and others drawn and engraved by David Kandel expressly for this edition. The Kandel woodcuts, identified by the initials "D K," number over 500.

Title Page of Kreuter Buch
Title Page

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Hieronymus Bock, known by the German and Graeco-Latin versions of his name, Jerome Bock or Hieronymus Tragus, issued his early works under the name Hieronymus Herbarius. He, Leonhart Fuchs, and Otto Brunfels are considered the German "Fathers of Botany." Bock was born in Heidesbach.

He studied at the university, and settled at Zweibrucken where he taught school and took charge of Count Ludewig's gardens. At the time of Ludewig's death in 1523, Bock was a zealous Protestant. Ludewig's successor, Freidrich II, was opposed to Bock's views and Bock lost his job. He went to Hornbach, served as a Lutheran pastor, practiced medicine and "devoted his spare time to botany" (Arber 1986, 59). Bock died in Hornbach in 1554.

Portrait of Hieronymus Bock from Kreuter Buch
Portrait of Hieronymus Bock

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Bock issued his early works under the name Hieronymus Herbarius.

The Kreuter Buch is a landmark in the field of botany. Bock is lauded for his careful study of regional plants, the quality of his plant descriptions, the clarity of his descriptions, and his discovery of plants never before described by anyone. Botanist Edward Lee Greene judges Bock to be "the first father of phytography after Theophrastus" (Greene 1983, part I, 311).

Sources:

Arber, Agnes. Herbals: Their Origin and Evolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986.
 
Greene, Edward Lee. Landmarks of Botanical History. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1983.

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