Dating from 1693, Hortus Indicus Malabaricus… is a 12-volume survey of the plants of south-west India – especially those of economic or medicinal significance – that was organised and overseen by Hendrik Adriaan Rheede, a colonial administrator of the Dutch East India Company.
In its creation studies were undertaken by a considerable number of Dutch botanists and physicians. It also benefited from the contributions of local healers and scholars, and one of the main sources was a work owned by the physician Itti Achudan from Kerala, whose contributions to the text were translated from his original Malayalam into Latin.
The plants are all given their local names in Sanskrit and Malayalam, as well as in Arabic and Latin.
The work records not just species, some of which have since become extinct, but also the local medical practices, complete with details of the diseases that a plant may cure and the relevant dosage.
Here bound as six volumes in contemporary Dutch vellum with gilt arms to their covers, it is a work than contains some 780 engraved plates, mostly double-page.
When last seen at auction, at Sotheby’s in 1946, Quaritch purchased this set at £82. This time, estimated at £25,000-35,000 at the auction on May 18, it sold instead for £180,000.
More to follow on this sale in a future issue.