Little is known about the life of Johannes de Cube (also known as Johann Wonnecke from Kaub, who died around 1503). He was the private physician to various aristocrats, including Adolf III of Nassau and Count Eberhard III of Eppstein, and later became a town doctor in Frankfurt am Main in 1484. In 1503 Johannes de Cube received the citizenship of Frankfurt.
Johannes de Cube is thought to have been the sole author of the "Gart der Gesundheit" (Mainz, Peter Schöffer 1485), the first comprehensive pharmacopoeia written in German, which became a true book of the people because of its recipes and descriptions of healing effects. It was re-printed, revised and translated numerous times.
Later research, commissioned by the travel-book author and editor Bernhard von Breydenbach, showed that Johannes de Cube compiled his work on the basis of German expert literature from the 12th to 14th century and chose the plants to be depicted on the same basis. In over 400 chapters, presented in semi-alphabetical order by the Latin name of the drugs, the "Gart" described a total of 382 plants, 25 animals and 28 minerals.
While the text completely followed the medieval tradition, the illustrations presented a decisive turning point in the history of botanic illustration, as it was the first time that plants were depicted relatively true to nature. The majority of these illustrations were made by the painter and graphic artist Erhard Reuwich, who accompanied the editor von Breydenbach on his travels to Palestine and Egypt in 1483-84 and also produced the illustrations for his famous travelogue "Peregrinatio in terram sanctam" (1486).
With great skill Reuwich depicted plants just the way they were in nature. He did not shy away from overlapping leaves, turned and twisted leaves and flowers, or curved stems and roots. Even his hatching was no longer schematic but evolved into a subtle drawing - at that time an important novelty in the history of wood cutting, which made overpainting obsolete.
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