Epistolae hactenus non editae (Caspar Bauhin, ed.), in: BAUHIN, Johann. De plantis à divis sanctis?ve nomen habentibus
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Epistolae hactenus non editae (Caspar Bauhin, ed.), in: BAUHIN, Johann. De plantis à divis sanctis've nomen habentibus

Autore: GESSNER, Conrad (1516-1565)

Dati tipografici: Basel Konrad Waldkirch, 1591

8vo. 163, (1) pp. A-K8, L2. With the printer's mark at the end. Old limp vellum.

Index Aureliensis, 114.868; VD 16, B-854; R.J. Durling, Konrad Gessner's Briefwechsel, in: “Humanismus und Naturwissenschaften”, R. Schmitz & F. Krafft, eds., (Boppart, 1980), p. 102; H. Wellisch, Conrad Gessner: a Bio-bibliography, (Zug, 1984), B/9.


FIRST EDITION of thirty letters by Conrad Gessner addressed to his pupil Johann Bauhin and edited by his brother Caspar as an appendix to Johann's first botanical treatise, a list of plants named after gods and saints. They are preceded by a dedication letter of Caspar Bauhin to the botanist Joachim Camerarius the Younger (1534-1598), dated from Basel, February 12, 1591. A major collection of letters by Gessner to his colleagues was published by Caspar Wolf at Zürich in 1577 in three books. A fourth book containing only letters to Johannes Kentmann and Georg Fabritius appeared in Wittenberg in 1584 (cf. C. Delisle, Une correspondance scientifique à la Renaissance: Les Lettres Médicinales de Conrad Gesner, in: “Réseaux de correspondance à l'âge classique, XVIe-XVIIe siècle”, P.-Y. Beaurepaire, J. Häseler & al., eds., Saint-Étienne, 2006, p. 33-44).

In 1560 Johann Bauhin, then a nineteen year old medical student en route from Basel to the University of Tübingen, paid a visit to Conrad Gessner in Zürich. The two men shared a passion for botany and quickly became close friends. The following summer they spent several months together collecting alpine plants. During the next four years, as Bauhin travelled to Montpellier, Italy, and Lyon, he and Gessner wrote to one another, exchanging plants, botanical queries, books, medical advices, and amiable gossip.

The value of this correspondence lies especially in the detailed picture it offers of Gessner and Bauhin, their friendship, their scholarly and medical activities, their botanizing, and in some incidental passages the unhappy times in which they lived. It is moving to watch Gessner's attempts to complete his Historia plantarum, eagerly waiting for plants to bloom in his garden, begging his friends for specimens, worrying over the slowness of his artist and block-cutter, fretting over the demands of his printer. The last of his letters to Bauhin is dated from October 1565. Two month later Gessner died from the plague.

Johann Bauhin (1541-1613) the Younger was born in Basel and studied botany at Tübingen under Leonard Fuchs. He settled as a physician in his native city and was elected professor of rhetoric at the local university in 1566. Four years later he was invited to become physician to the duke of Württemberg at Montbéliard, where he remained till his death. He devoted himself chiefly to botany. His great work, Historia plantarum nova et absolutissima, a compilation of all that was then known about botany, was not complete at his death and was only published in 1650/51 (cf. F. Hasler & M.L. Portmann, Johann Bauhin der Jüngere. Seine soziale Bedeutung als behördlicher Arzt, Balneologe und Botaniker, in: “Gesnerus”, 20, 1963, pp. 1-21).

Johann's younger brother, Caspar Bauhin (1560-1624), the editor of the present letter's, certainly was the most famous of a family spanning six generations of physicians and natural scientists. At the early age of twelve he entered the University of Basel, where Felix Platter and Theodor Zwinger were among his teachers. At Padua he studied anatomy with Girolamo Fabrizi d'Acquapendente, at Bologna with Giulio Cesare Aranzi, and at Paris with Sévérin Pineau. He continued his studies at Montpellier and Tübingen. Returning to Basel in 1580, he was admitted to the degree of doctor, and gave private lectures in botany and anatomy. In 1582 he was appointed to the Greek professorship in the university, and in 1588 to the chair of botany and anatomy. He later was made city physician, professor of the practice of medicine, rector of the university (four times), and dean of his faculty (nine times). His principal work on anatomy was Theatrum anatomicum (1592). He also published several works on botany, of which the most valuable was Pinax theatri botanici (1623), a landmark of botanical history (cf. M. Plessner, Gaspard Bauhin, in: “Dictionary of Scientific Biography”, C.C. Gillespie, ed., New York, 1970, I, pp. 522-525).

“Et les lettres de Gesner sont d'une spontanéité remarquable pour le XVIe siècle. Écrites au fil de la plume, parfois à la hâte, parfois dans la fatigue au soir d'une journée de travail, elles ne prétendent pas être des modèles d'éloquence et de latinité. Dans leur simplicité un peu rugueuse, dans leur aspect accumulatif et leur défaut d'organisation, elles sont l'expression sincère de sentiments et d'idées, de certitudes et de questions, d'affectueux reproches et de compliments raisonnables” (C. Longeon, Introduction, in: “Conrad Gesner. Vingt lettres à Jean Bauhin fils, 1563-1565”, Saint Etienne, 1976, p. 10).


Bauhin, Johannes. Zürich, June 24, 1560 (p. 95)

id. Zürich, July 14, 1560 (p. 97)

id. Baden, August 21, 1560 (p. 97)

id. Zürich, October 21, 1560 (p. 98)

id. Zürich, January 7, 1561 (p. 99)

id. Zürich, April 20, 1561 (p. 100)

id. Zürich, October 24, 1561 (p. 102)

id. Zürich, November 9, 1561 (p. 104)

id. Zürich, 1562 (p. 106)

id. Zürich, August 24, 1562 (p. 107)

id. Baden, August 13, 1562 (p. 108)

id. Zürich, September 30, 1562 (p. 109)

from Bauhin, Johannes to Gessner, Conrad. Basel (p. 110)

Bauhin, Johannes. Zürich, November 5, 1562 (p. 111)

id. Zürich, December 5, 1562 (p. 112)

from Bauhin, Johannes to Gessner, Conrad. Basel, October 20, 1562 (p. 115)

Bauhin, Johannes. Zürich, July 11, 1563 (p. 116)

id. Zürich, July 19, 1563 (p. 119)

id. Zürich, August 9, 1563 (p. 120)

id. Zürich, August 1, 1563 (p. 122)

id. Zürich, October 3, 1563 (p. 125)

id. Zürich, 1563 (p. 126)

id. Zürich, October 28, 1563 (p. 128)

id. Zürich, January 6, 1564 (p. 133)

id. Zürich, December 12, 1563 (p. 133)

id. Zürich, April 5, 1564 (p. 136)

id. Zürich, February 15, 1564 (p. 138)

id. Zürich January 7, 1564 (p. 139)

id. Zürich, 1564 (p. 141)

id. Zürich, February 11, 1564 (p. 153)

id. Zürich, June 30, 1564 (p. 145)

id. Zürich, March 24, 1564 (p. 147)

id. Zürich, November 5, 1564 (p. 148)

id. Zürich, December 17, 1564 (p. 150)

id. Zürich, February 25, 1565 (p. 151)

id. [Zürich?], March 16, 1565 (p. 152)

id. Zürich, July 9, 1565 (p. 154)

id. Zürich, August 30, 1565 (p. 155)

id. Zürich, October 8, [1565?] (p. 157)

id. Zürich, October 29, 1565 (p. 159)

id. Zürich, October 6, 1565 (p. 161)

Raphael, Antonius. Zürich, August 29, 1565.


Conrad Gessner was a polymath: one of the best Hellenist of the sixteenth century, physician, botanist, zoologist, professor of philosophy, bibliographer, and prolific editor. He was a native of Zürich and studied classical languages and theology in Strasbourg, and from 1533 medicine in Bourges, Paris, and Montpellier. In 1537 he was appointed professor of Greek at the Academy in Lausanne. In 1541 he settled in Zürich, where he practiced medicine. In addition to his medical activities there, in 1546 he became professor for physics, natural philosophy, and ethics. In 1552 he became assistant Stadtarzt, and two years later Stadtarzt. In 1558 he was appointed regular of the Grossmünster and in 1564 he received an imperial patent of nobility. In 1565 the plague, which has been identified from Gessner's description as a form ofpulmonary bubonic, came to Zurich, and on December 13 he died (cf. L. Braun, Conrad Gessner, Genève, 1990, passim).

Three major projects preoccupied Gessner in his life. The first was the Bibliotheca universalis (1545), which earned him the title of ‘father of bibliography'. His second project was the Historia animalium (four volumes between 1551 and 1558), a monumental encyclopedia of animals. The third was the Historia plantarum (1541), a magnificent herbal, to which Gessner worked for a heavily augmented edition until his death. But also his works on pharmacology, which became bestsellers in his time, provide unique insights into the state of this art during the early sixteenth century, and his editions of Galen's works, commentaries on treatises of other physicians, as well as an anthology of surgical works, are invaluable for historians of medicine. Furthermore Gessner was also an accomplished linguist and lexicographer. He has been acknowledged as one of the founders of comparative philology, mainly due to his Mithridates (1555), a study of the languages of the world as they were known in his time (cf. L. Pinon, Conrad Gessner and the Historical Depth of Renaissance Natural History, in: “Historia: Empricism and Erudition in Early Modern Europe”, G. Pomata & N.S. Siraisi, eds., Cambridge MA, 2005, pp. 241-268).

Epistolae hactenus non editae (Caspar Bauhin, ed.), in: BAUHIN, Johann. De plantis à divis sanctis?ve nomen habentibus