Kreutterbuch

Addition to the foreword of the complete reprint:

The Kreutterbuch 1563 by Johann Kentmann:

Over 450 years after the original work was completed, a reprint, complete in every detail, of the „Kreutterbuch“ by Johann Kentmann became possible as part of the preparations for the 9. Sächsische Landesgartenschau (LAGA) 2022, the State horticultural show of Saxony, in Torgau.

Commissioned by August I, Duke and Elector of Saxony, and his wife Anna, Electress of Saxony, the Torgau town doctor Johann Kentmann assembled 600 gloriously colorful watercolour drawings of plants in a book which he presented to the Duke on 26 October 1563.

This began the inception of the Elector‘s library which was first kept in Annaberg and later in Torgau. Today it is one of the most precious herbal works in the University and State Library of Saxony (SLUB) department of manuscripsts, old prints and regional studies.

In this book Kentmann developed further the water colour technique which he previously used 1549 at the Botanical Garden in Padua to illustrate over 200 plants. The Torgau artist David Redtel, who used egg tempera colour for his plant drawings in the Kreutterbuch achieved a true to nature level of detail not seen before.

Many of he illustrations show flowers and fruit at the same time. This was possible because fresh plants, sent from the garden of apothecary Joachim Kraich of the Mohrenapotheke in Torgau, were used for the drawings. This late medieval physic garden had such a wide range of medicinal plants that it was seen as one of the four most important gardens in Germany.

The freshness of the colours of the illustrations in the Kreutterbuch are still, after 450 years, unsurpassed and they are seen as the most outstanding of all the Renaissance plant illustrations still in existence. In contrast to the woodcut prints of many other herbals of the same time, it was at that time technically not possible to reprint these drawings in colour, which is why the book remained relatively unknown in horticulture and has not, until now, been published in its entirety.

An informative version with 38 images was published in 2003 and is long out of print. The plant illustrations of the Kreutterbuch were only digitised in 2017. This allowed scientists in Cambridge and Zurich to compare them with other Renaissance herbals with the result that several first documentations of plant species were newly assigned to Kentmann’s book.

Johann Kentmann‘s Kreutterbuch is proof that Torgau is not only a Renaissance town in its architecture, but also a 16th century German centre of science, where plants, minerals and much more were collected and documented.

 

The present complete reprint makes this colourful herbal available to a large readership and recognizes the importance of Torgau during the Renaissance.

My personal heartfelt thanks go to the organisers, Reinhard Schultz, Dr. Baumann, Heike Campbell, Dr. Alex, Förderverein LAGA 2022 Torgau e.V. as the promoter and SLUB Dresden for the realisation of this reprinting project and for their engagement.

 

Oberbürgermeisterin der Großen Kreisstadt Torgau

Romina Barth