The Three Founders of Botany Online Exhibit

This article expired 11-Dec-2013 -- it may contain outdated or superceded information
11-Dec-2013 Newsletter article

The Special Collections Department has an online exhibit about the Three Founders of Botany: Otto Brunfels (1488-1534), Leonhart Fuchs (1501-1566), and Hieronymus Bock (1498-1554). These German physicians established botany as a discipline independent of medicine in the sixteenth century. They spread their knowledge through the publication of herbals, a book written to identify plants and explain their medical uses. The herbals contained intricate woodcut illustrations to aid in identification.

The department has an herbal, by each of the botanists in its rare book collection. In 2012, the department received the last of the three, New Kreuter Buch (by Hieronymus Bock), completing former head of Special Collections Tanya Zanish-Belcher’s dream. These herbals can be used to study the history of botany, medicine, art, and printing.

Brunfels wrote Herbarum Vivae Eicones (Living Portraits of Plants) in 1530-1536. His descriptions consisted of information from classical and medieval authors. Fuchs published his De Historia Stirpium (Notable Commentaries on the History of Plants) in 1542. It was the first to contain illustrations of native plants from the Americas, including pumpkins, chili peppers, and corn. Bock originally published Kreuter Buch (Plant Book) in German in 1539 without illustrations. In 1552, it was translated into Latin and included illustrations. He wrote updated descriptions of plants, called phytography.

Student assistant Rebecca Dickman, senior in history and sociology, created the exhibit website as one component of her honors project. Dickman curated a small exhibit in the reading room using the three herbals and made a catalog that she added to the digital repository (which can be found at: While working on her project, she learned how to write exhibit labels, make Plexiglas book cradles, and create a website. Dickman will present her project at the honors poster presentation on December 11.

Check out the online exhibit at Interested in viewing the three herbals? Visit the department on the fourth floor of Parks Library (from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mon.-Fri.).

The call numbers of the herbals are:

Otto Brunfels Herbarum Vivae Eicones:
Parks Library Special Collections QK41 .B835h

Leonhart Fuchs De Historia Stirpium
Parks Library Special Collections QK41 .F951d

Hieronymus Bock New Kreuter Buch
Parks Library Special Collections QK41 B632x 1552

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