Anselmus de Boodt

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Anselmus de Boodt
Born1550, Bruges
Died1632, Bruges
Scientific career
Fieldsphysician, gemologist, naturalist, writer, draughtsman

Anselmus de Boodt or Anselmus Boetius de Boodt (Bruges, 1550 - Bruges, 21 June 1632) was a Flemish humanist naturalist, Rudolf II physician's gemologist.[1] Along with the German known as Georgius Agricola with mineralogy, de Boodt was responsible for establishing modern gemology. De Boodt was an avid gems and minerals collector who travelled widely to various mining regions in Belgium, Germany, Bohemia and Silesia to collect samples. His definitive work on the subject was the Gemmarum et Lapidum Historia (1609).

De Boodt was also a gifted draughtsman who made many natural history illustrations and developed a natural history taxonomy.

Early life[edit]

De Boodt descended from an aristocratic family. His ancestors had come from Dortrecht in the 13th century. His father Anselmus de Boodt (1519-1587) was a renowned broker who also provided overseas insurance coverage.[2]

De Boodt studied artes at the University of Louvain. He left to study canonical and civil law at the University of Orléans from the end of 1572. After completing his studies, he went to study for a while in Padua where his presence is confirmed in 1576.[3] In 1579 he was appointed to the city council of Bruges and was involved in the financial administration of the city of Bruges.[4] However, he had to leave the city after the Calvinists took power.[2]

At the imperial court[edit]

Court physician[edit]

IJzerverken, drawing by Anselmus de Boodt

De Boodt went to Bohemia where in 1583 he was appointed the personal physician of Wilhelm Rosenberg, an important diplomat and military leader of Bohemia, who lived in the Renaissance Castle of Český Krumlov in southern Bohemia. In january 1579 until 1580, he studied medicine and natural philosophy in the university of Heidelberg where he formally received lessons until 1580 from [1] the Swiss doctor of medicine Thomas Erastus.[3]

In 1584 he was appointed canon of St. Donat's Church in Bruges. He held the position until 1595 without leaving Prague.[4]

In 1586 de Boodt returned to Padua to continue his medicine study and obtained a doctorate the next year.[3]

In 1587 the Flemish doctor and pioneering botanist Carolus Clusius left the imperial botanical garden of Emperor Rudolph II in Prague, de Boodt took over his position.[2] De Boodt was also appointed the medical court doctor of the Emperor.[3]

De Boodt therefore became a physician, his first function, the one which attached him to the emperor and which linked him to the empire. He directed his studies towards this field and his intellectual pre-eminences mainly came from there. In Le Parfaict Joaillier, the word illness is used nearly sixty times, ills twenty times, ill twenty-five times; the word Physician always in capital letters, in the singular or plural, is used twenty-five times for the purposes of certification of medical facts. [5]

In January 1604 Anselme Boece de Boodt, with a salary of 40 florins, was appointed advisor - and above all personal physician to the emperor - Rodolphi II Roman Imperatoris cubicularius medicus as specified in his portrait by Sadeler. He will retain this title and this function until the death of his protector as evidenced by all the title pages of his works. [5]

Various works[edit]

De Boodt prepared a Theatrum Instrumentarum Mechanicorum for Emperor Rudolph II (unpublished), which described a wide range of scientific instruments. When the court engraver Martino Rota died in 1583 de Boodt obtained an engraving licence in 1588 to complete the third part of Rota's Last Judgement (Albertina, Vienna).

When the Flemish court historian Jacobus Typotius died after completing the second part of his Symbola Divina et Humana, a collection of emblems and imprese (the first volume had appeared in Prague with engravings by Aegidius Sadeler), de Boodt completed the third and most voluminous part. The book appeared in 1603 and was reprinted at least 10 times up to 1972 (Academia, Graz).

Natural history studies[edit]

De Boodt also made many watercolours of native and exotic animals and plants. He filled twelve volumes with 728 illustrations of quadrupeds, reptiles, birds, fish, insects and plants. He thus aimed to depict all creatures of the natural world as his compatriot Joris Hoefnagel who was also working at Rudolph II's court had done earlier in his series of the Four Elements. De Boodt's volumes can be regarded as a paper museum.

He developed a taxonomy and standardisation, which he added in many languages to his drawings. These drawings predate the Academy of the Lynxes around Galileo Galilei for which usually primacy of such material is claimed. De Boodt made most of the drawings himself but also engaged the services of other artists such as his compatriot Elias Verhulst from Mechelen.[6] This Historia Naturalis remained in the hand of his heirs until 1844 and was partially published in 1989 (De Albums van Anselmus De Boodt, door M.C. Maselis, A. Balis, R. Marynissen; Lannoo Tielt; The Boodt Watercolours, 1999).

Gemological studies[edit]

Instrument for cutting stones, p. 56 of the Gemmarum et Lapidum Historia

The principal assignment of de Boodt was the study and cataloguing of all known gems, rocks and minerals. He summarized his work in the Gemmarum et Lapidum Historia (The History of Gems and Stones), the finest gemological treatise and encycopedia ever written for this time.[1] The first edition, Latin, of which appeared in 1609 and was dedicated to the emperor. It was published in Latin in Hanoviae (Hanau, now Germany). Two further editions in Latin were published in Leiden, the Dutch Republic, in 1636 and in 1647. These were organized by a physician of Leiden, Adriaan Toll, a commentator of the works of Galenus.[3] The book was translated into French in 1644 : Le Parfaict Jouaillier ou Histoire des Pierreries.[1]

The book was used for many centuries for its information on the splitting of diamonds, how to recognize fake gems, colour-fast mixes for painters, exploration sites for geologists, the hardness of rocks and the health benefits of certain minerals.[2]

The first part of the book gives an account of the various causes of minerals. De Boodt's views on this were influenced by earlier scholastic authors and the Greek philosopher Aristotle. He was still able to arrive at a unique account for the causes of the formation of minerals and several of his ideas became well accepted throughout the seventeenth century.[7] The book contains important contributions to the theory of colour.[6]

The publication of the Gemmarum et Lapidum Historia ensured de Boodt's European reputation and he could afford to live in luxury. He still decided to leave the imperial court after the death of Rudolf II in 1612.[2]

Return to Bruges[edit]

He returned to Bruges in 1614. Here he remained active as a physician, painted and performed on string instruments songs from his own Luteboec (Book of the Lute). He composed various literary works in his native Dutch as a member of the local Chamber of Rhetoric. He translated the Consolatione Philosophiae of Boethius into Dutch verse and for the youth he published spiritual liedekens (songs) such as De Baene des Deugds (The Way of Virtue) (1624) and De Baene des Hemels ende der Deughden (The Way of Heaven and the Virtues) (Nicolaes Breyghel, 1628).

He compiled the first herbal book in Bruges with sixty plates, published posthumously by his young friend Vredius in 1640 under the title Anselmi Boëtii de Boot I.C. Brugensis & Rodolphi II. imp. Roman. medici a cubiculis florum, herbarum, ac fructuum selectiorum icones, & vires pleraeq. hactenus ignotae.

Anselm de Boodt died on 21 June 1632 in Bruges.[2]

Selected works[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Zylberman, Nicolas (2022). "Anselme Boece de Boodt, 1550 – 1632, gemmologue praticien. De Bruges à Prague, itinéraire européen d'un humaniste - 1ère partie". Ikuska (53): 49–51.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Marie-Christiane De Boodt-Maselis, Anselmus Boetius De Boodt (1550-1632), Brugs humanist aan het Hof van Oostenrijk Vlaanderen in: Jaargang 51. Christelijk Vlaams Kunstenaarsverbond, Tielt 2002, p. 21-22 (in Dutch)
  3. ^ a b c d e "The Perfect Jeweller - Anselmus De Boodt at the Court of Rudolf II". Archived from the original on 3 February 2015. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
  4. ^ a b Boodt, Anselmus Boetius de at the Galileo Project
  5. ^ a b Zylberman, Nicolas (2022). "Anselme Boece de Boodt, 1550 – 1632, gemmologue praticien. De Bruges à Prague, itinéraire européen d'un humaniste - 2ème partie - 2022 2° trim". Ikuska (54): 25–44.
  6. ^ a b Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann, Arcimboldo: Visual Jokes, Natural History, and Still-Life Painting, University of Chicago Press, 2009, p. 120-122
  7. ^ Anselmus de Boodt’s Gemmarum et Lapidum Historia

External links[edit]