Bibliotheken Tentoonstellingen Clusius
Le pere de tous les beaux Jardins de ce pays
Carolus Clusius in books and prints
Exhibition in Leiden University Library on the occasion of the conference ‘Clusius in a New Context’, 23-25 September 2004.

The Netherlandish humanist Carolus Clusius (1526-1609) is one of the most important European botanists of the sixteenth century. He is the author of innovative, internationally famous botanical publications, he introduced exotic plants such as the tulip and potato in the Low Countries, he was advisor of princes and aristocrats in various European countries, professor and director of the hortus botanicus in Leiden, and central figure in a vast European network of exchanges.
  Focusing on Clusius’ impressive achievements, the Scaliger Institute has
launched an ambitious research project to study the rise of European botany as a field of specialist, scientific expertise during the period 1550-1610. Among the project’s aims are the full digitization of all of Clusius’ correspondence (some 1500 letters, most of which are kept in the University Library); the setting up of an international network of specialists, which will help to make the correspondence and other sources better accessible; and a series of publications on Clusius and the cultural and scientific environment he worked in.
  On the occasion of the conference ‘Clusius in a New Context’ (Leiden, 23-
25 September, 2004), which marks the formal beginning of the Clusius Project, a small exhibition has been organized. It presents a selection of materials on Clusius and his scholarly work.

Carolus Clusius, or by his French name Charles de l’Escluse, was born in Arras on 19 February, 1526. His father Michel de l’Escluse, Seigneur de Watènes, was a nobleman who served as councillor at the provincial court of Artois. Charles went to university at Louvain, where he studied law under Gabriel Mudaeus. In 1546 he entered the famous Collegium Trilingue. In 1548 we find him briefly at Marburg as a law student, but his protestant conviction appears to have led him to Wittenburg, where he studied with the reformer Philip Melanchthon. On the advice of Melanchthon he changed his subject to medicine and botany. Early in 1550 he spent some time in Switzerland. In 1551 he was at Montpellier, studying with the botanical professor Guillaume Rondelet. The environment of Montpellier with its wealth of plants was particularly suited to develop and intensify his botanical tendencies. During these formative years he acquired no less than eight languages and an extensive knowledge on a wide variety of subjects. His first publication was a French translation of Rembert Dodoens’ Cruydt-Boeck, published in Antwerp in 1557.
  Having finished his studies, Clusius worked in various places and
occupations, for instance as tutor and travel companion to the sons of Anton Fugger, Count of Kirchperg and Weissenhorn. In the 1560s he was back in the Southern Netherlands, enjoying the protection of such influential patrons as Guido and Marcus Laurinus in Bruges. In 1561 his translation of an Italian pharmacognosy completed this period. During this period his also was involved in the production of the splendid series of ‘libri picturati’, a splendid collection of hundreds of watercolours of plants and animals (now in the Bibliotheca Jagiellonski, Krakow). After short stays in Paris and London, he was invited to Vienna by Emperor Maximilian II in 1573 as court physician and overseer of the imperial garden. This high patronage enabled him to travel all over Europe, collecting information for his botanical studies and introducing a range of new plants from outside Europe, such as the tulip and the potato. In 1576 his Spanish flora (Rariorum aliquot stirpium per Hispanias observatarum historia (catalogue nr. 8)) was published by Christopher Plantin at Antwerp, followed in 1583 by his description of the plants of Austria and neighbouring regions (Rariorum aliquot stirpium, per Pannoniam, Austriam, & vicinas quasdam provincias observatarum historia (catalogue nr. 9)). By then, religious conflict had forced his departure to Frankfurt, where he worked for the publishing firm of De Bry.
  In 1593 Clusius was finally appointed honorary professor of botany at the
University of Leiden in 1593, a chair which he occupied until his death. The Officina Plantiniana published his collected works in two impressive volumes between 1601 and 1605. Another important achievement was the foundation of the Leiden botanical gardens, the second such institution north of the Alps. Clusius died on the 4th of April 1609 and was buried in the Vrouwekerk in Leiden, next to his equally renowned colleague Josephus Justus Scaliger.

Select bibliography of secondary literature

Festschrift anlässlich der 400jährigen Wiederkehr der wissenschaftlichen Tätigkeit von Carolus Clusius (Charles de l’Escluse) im pannonischen Raum (Eisenstadt, 1973).

F.W.T. Hunger, Charles de l’Escluse (Carolus Clusius) Nederlandsch kruidkundige, 1526-1609, 2 vols. (’s-Gravenhage, 1927-43).

G. Istvánffi, Etudes et commentaires sur le code de l’Escluse augmentés de quelques notices biographiques (Budapest, [1898]-1900).

J. De Landtsheer, ‘Justus Lipsius and Carolus Clusius: a flourishing friendship’, in M. Laureys (ed.), The world of Justus Lipsius: A contribution towards his intellectual biography. Proceedings of a colloquium held under the auspices of the Belgian Historical Institute in Rome (Rome, 22-24 May 1997), pp. 273-295.

F. de Nave & D. Imhof (red.), De botanica in de Zuidelijke Nederlanden (einde 15de eeuw – ca. 1650). Tentoonstelling Museum Plantin-Moretus (Antwerpen, 1993).

A. Ubrizsy Savoia, Papers dealing with Carolus Clusius (Roma, 1988).

J. Theunisz, Carolus Clusius. Het merkwaardige leven van een pionier der wetenschap (Amsterdam, 1939).

H. Veendorp & L.G.M. Baas Becking, Hortus Academicus Lugduno-Batavus 1587-1937. (Leiden, 1990).

1. Portrait of Carolus Clusius. Engraving by Martinus Rota, Italian, 16th century. [University Library, Prentenkabinet I152 Rot/1].
2. Portrait of Carolus Clusius. Engraving by Jacob de Gheijn II. This engraving was made for the edition of the Rariorum plantarum historia (Antwerp, 1601). [University Library, Prentenkabinet SIN 17577].
3. Jacob de Monte, Portrait of Carolus Clusius. Oil on canvas, 1585. [University Library, Scaliger Institute].
v This portrait, which is attributed to Jacob de Monte, is the only known painted portrait of Clusius. It was made in 1585 when Clusius was in Vienna. On the left the coat of arms of Clusius is depicted.
4. Engraving of the Hortus Botanicus after a drawing by J.C. Woudanus. [University Library, Collectie Bodel Nijenhuis, P 315 - II - N 41]
v  This engraving by Willem Swanenburgh after J.C. Woudanus from 1610 depicts the Hortus Botanicus in bird’s-eye view. On both sides of the engraving two stems of bamboo can be seen with the inscription ‘bandus’. Underneath the engraving some of the natural curiosities from the Ambulacrum can be seen.
5a. Letter from Clusius to the Italian botanist Matteo Caccini, with a drawing by Clusius of a daffodil. [University Library, BPL 2724 14].
5b. Letter from Charles de Houchin to Carolus Clusius dated 7 Februari 1585. [University Library, VUL 101].

6. Carolus Clusius, Fungi from West Pannonia. 86 watercolors on loose sheets; different sizes, mounted in a 17th-century binding, 87 ff. 435 x 275 mm. Szalonak, 1584. [University Library, BPL 303].
v  During his stay in Austria Clusius often stayed with his Hungarian patron Balthasar Batthyány at the castle of Güssing, working on a study of fungi. This series of watercolours of fungi, which was commissioned for his host, is first of its kind in the history of botany and served as the basis for Clusius’ Fungorum in Pannoniis observatorum brevis historia (Antwerp, 1601), as part of the Rariorum plantarum historia.

7. Carolus Clusius, Curae posteriores, seu plurimarum non antè cognitarum, aut descriptarum stirpium, peregrinorumque aliquot animalium novae descriptiones: Quibus & omnia ipsius opera, aliaque ab eo versa augentur, aut illustrantur (Leiden: Raphelengius, 1611). Bound with: Everard Vorstius, Oratio funebris in obitum V.N. et CL. Caroli Clusii Atrebatis. Accesserunt variorum epicedia (Leiden: Raphelengius, 1611). [University Library, shelf-mark 532 E 18].
v  Copy from the library of Isaac Vossius. In this posthumous work, many new plants and animals are described and illustrated in woodcut. Vorstius’ funeral oration also includes commemorative verses by, among others, Bonaventura Vulcanius, Fredericus Iamotius, Daniel Heinsius, Pertrus Cunaeus, Petrus Scriverius.

8. Carolus Clusius, Rariorum aliquot stirpium per Hispanias observatarum Historia […] (Antwerp: Plantin, 1576). Bound up with: Garcia d’Orta, Aromatum et simplicium alioquot medicamentorum apud indos nascentium historia, 4th edn (Antwerp: Plantin, 1593) and Christophorus Acosta, Aromatum & medicamentorum in Orientali India nascentium […] (Antwerp: Plantin, 1593). [University Library, shelf-mark 579 E 30].
v  The Historia Stripium per Hispanias is the firdst independent scientific work by Clusius. His work has been described as the source from which our modern knowledge of genera originated. In this work the rare plants of Spain and Portugal are described. The printer, Christopher Plantin, ordered the hundreds of exquisite woodcuts from Pieter van der Borcht. Later they were also used also for the herbals of Lobelius and Dodonaeus. In the year 1576 Clusius also worked for the well-known cartographer Abraham Ortelius.
9. Carolus Clusius, Rariorum aliqout stirpium, per Pannoniam, Austriam & vicinas quasdam provincias oservatarum historia, IV libris expressa (Antwerpen: Plantin, 1583). [University Library, shelf-mark 1413 F 18].
v A very important epoch of Clusius’life was initiated in 1573 when emperor Maximilian II invited him to found and direct a Hortus medicus at Vienna. Clusius not only carried out this task but also investigated, in three years time, the vegatation of Austria and Hungary. After Maximilian’s death in 1576 Clusius left the imperial court and after a trip to England, went back to Vienna to write his flora of Austria.
10. [Carolus Clusius], Antidotarium, sive de exacta componendorum miscendorumque medicamentorum ratione libri III, […] (Antwerp: Plantin, 1561). Bound with: Gulielmus Rondeletius, De ponderibus: sive de iusta quantitate & proportione medicamentorum Liber (Antwerp: Plantin, 1561). [University Library, shelf-mark 629 G 13].

11. Carolus Clusius, Rariorum plantarum historia (Antwerp: Plantin-Moretus, 1601). [University Library, shelf-mark 661 A 3].
v First edition of Clusius’ collected works. The first part synthesises material presented in Clusius’ Rariorum aliquot Stirpium per Pannoniam et Austriam Observatarum Historia (1583) and his Rariorum aliquot stirpium per Hispanias (1576), along with additions describing new plants. It is followed by the Fungorum historia, the first published treatise on fungi, which Clusius had composed during his stay with Count Batthyány in Hungary. Approximately one hundred new species are described here for the first time. The engraved title has a fine architectural border with representations of Adam and Solomon, and Theophrastus and Dioscorides, surrounded by pots with exotic plants, such as lilies and tulips (the latter were introduced into European cultivation by Clusius). The portrait by Jacob II de Gheijn, depicts Clusius in an oval cartouche incorporating a coat-of-arms and surrounded by pots of tulips, lilies, fritillaries, etc. The 1109 woodcuts, including 233 from the Spanish flora and 356 from the Austro-Hungarian flora, were cut by Gerard van Kampen after drawings by Clusius and Pieter van der Borcht. The remaining blocks were cut by the son of Virgil Solis in Frankfurt.



12. Carolus Clusius, Exoticorum libri decem: quibus animalium, plantarum, aromatum, aliorumque peregrinorum fructuum historiae describuntur: Item Petri Bellonis observationibus [...] (Leiden: Raphelengius, 1605). [Bibliotheca Thysiana, shelf-mark 2202].
v  First edition of the sequel to Clusius’ Rariorum plantarum historia (1601), containing further works not published in the former and mostly devoted to exotic plants and animals. The first six books contain new writings by Clusius, devoted to new species of plants, animals, and natural history from the new World, Southeast Asia, Africa, etc. This work is important for the number of new descriptions of non-European plants (and some animals) it contains, among which is the first published record and illustration of a South African plant. There is an extensive account of exotic seeds sent to him by various explorers. Books VII‑X comprise Clusius’ translations, with commentary, of da Orta, Acosta, Monardes and Belon.
13. Rembertus Dodonaeus, Cruydt-Boeck, volgens sijne laetste verbeteringe: Met bijvoegsels achter elck Capittel, uut verscheyden Cruydtbeschrijvers: Item in’t laetste een beschrijvinge vande Indiaensche Gewassen, meest getrocken uit de schriften van Carolus Clusius (Leiden: Raphelengius, 1608). [University Library, shelf-mark 659 A 7].
 Copy from the library of Isaac Vossius, with engraved title depicting a Hortus Botanicus and portrait medallions of Dodonaeus en Clusius.

vorige pagina