The Botanical Art of Schott's Aroideae Maximilianae

by Scott Hyndman

To begin viewing the images, IAS members with a password may click here. Each of the 42 botanical print images is referred to as a Tabula per the nomenclature used in the book. Most of the botanical names are out of date, but the spectacular artistic beauty of the images will be self evident.

The images in this compilation are from the Aroideae Maximilianae book published in 1879 by H. W. Schott and edited by J. Peyritsch that was owned by Dr. Monroe Birdsey. After Monroe passed away, the International Aroid Society bought the book from his estate. The images from the aroid botanical prints contained on this collection are for personal use only and may not be reproduced for commercial purposes. The original plates that were used to print the book are still owned and maintained by the Natural History Museum in Vienna.

Dr. Tom Croat wrote the following about Schott in his History and Current Status of Systematic Research with Araceae:


Although a number of botanists, in addition to Linnaeus, worked with Araceae prior to the early 19th Century, Heinrich Wilhelm Schott was the earliest to specialize almost exclusively with Araceae. He began his studies in the late 1820s and continued until his death. Schott was born January 7, 1794, in Brünn (Brno), Moravia (now the Czech Republic). His father was the gardener for the botanical garden of the University of Vienna and Schott had early contact with well-known botanists, including J. N. and F. J. Jacquin. It was the latter who recommended the young Schott for a position on a trip to Brazil. While in Brazil from mid-1817 through 1821, Schott established and managed an introduction garden, made field trips, and prepared many notes concerning the plants and animals he saw. In 1845 he became Director of the Imperial Gardens at Schöbrunn palace in Vienna, succeeding N. J. Jacquin who had amassed a large collection of tropical aroids (Nicolson, 1987b). Schott remained at Schöbrunn until his death on March 5, 1865.

Schott's role in the Araceae would be difficult to surpass. He described most of the larger genera, including over one-third of those genera currently in use. Schott's work began with a series of short papers on Araceae (Schott, 1820, 1827, 1829a-g, 1830a-e) that he published as a series entitled Für Liebhaber der Botanik in a trade magazine entitled Wiener Zeitschrift für Kunst, Literatur und Mode [see also Anonymous, 1865]. Later he published a longer paper (Schott, 1832) in which he treated almost 40 genera, recognizing taxa at sectional and subfamilial levels. This paper was the first to deal at any serious level with aroid systematics. Following this paper, there was a 21-year hiatus in which he published only a few, short, relatively unimportant papers (Schott, 1851, 1852). However, rather than being inactive, Schott had been preparing his system of classification, commissioning drawings and paintings, and otherwise refining his classification system. Between 1853 and 1857 Schott published the first of his summary works, Aroideae (Schott, 1853-1857) that consisted of 60 plates. It was followed by his Synopsis Aroidearum (Schott, 1856) and Genera Aroidearum (Schott, 1858a), and finally by the Prodromus Systematis Aroidearum (Schott, 1860). He also published a series of lithographs in four fascicles (Schott, 1857-1858). During this very active period of his career, Schott also published a long series of very short, relatively less important papers (Schott, 1853a-c, 1854a-e, 1855a-g, 1857a-z,aa-nn, 1858b-i, 1859a-f, 1861, 1862a-d, 1863, 1864a-c, 1865a, 1865b). Most of these articles were published in the Oersterichisches Botanisches Wochenblatt, a technical serial that appeared at a rate of sometimes more than one per week. In the year 1857, 43 Schott articles on Araceae were published!

The Prodromus brought his system of classification to a conclusion. Although Schott's herbarium collections (totalling 1379 specimens) were destroyed by fire shortly after the end of World War II, his incredibly detailed drawings of Araceae [commissioned by Schott], the Icones Aroidearum, remained and are now housed at the Vienna Natural History Museum. This set of 3400 line drawings (mostly herbarium specimens) and paintings of living collections were only partially published during Schott's lifetime. Only a few of the illustrations appeared in some of his works (Schott, 1853-1857; 1879a) but a complete microfiche edition of these illustrations has now been published (Schott, 1884) largely through the efforts of H. Riedl and D. H. Nicolson. One fascicle of plates containing Lasieae is lacking even today. In all, Schott described and named 587 species new to science. Among generic names still in use, he published 37 with an additional genus for which he made the transfer, and another for which he was the author of the basionym. No other aroid taxonomist has come close to Schott's record at the generic level; Engler described eight still accepted genera and the only other competitors, Carl Lineaus and N. E. Brown, each have six currently recognized genera."

This is what Katherine Rook Lieber wrote of Aroideae Maximilianae in her review entitled Plants In Print: The Age of Botanical Discovery.

"Monumental in size (each page is a breathtaking 24 x 30 inches), superb in rendering, and astonishing in its range of color on a single print, Aroideae Maximilianae by Heinrich Wilhelm Schott (Vienna: C. Gerold's Sohn, 1879) is a further example, and the exquisite high point of this exhibition. This magnificent work catalogued the findings of Ferdinand-Joseph Maximilian, second son of the Archduke of Austria, on a botanical expedition to Brazil in 1859. The illustrated plant is portrayed in its entirety on the page, surrounded by closeups of the specimen's flower, leaves, roots and seeds. The chromolithography itself displays a masterful command of the process, its range of color, hue and saturation ranging from the palest pink-white flush on the seeds and bulbs, to the contrasting mint-green and forest-green of the leaves, to the deep and dramatic purple-black and crimson of the illustrated flower. These handsome images required up to twenty stones for a single plate -- meaning that unlike a single pass of black ink printing, each printed page was run through the press twenty times, once per selectively-inked stone, and at times adding only the slighted blush or degree of shading to a detail. The book itself includes forty-two such plates. One can see the expense involved; but the reward is a level of subtle hue that is difficult to equal. With delicate colors and ranges of colors, clean lines, and artistic, yet impeccably detailed presentation, books such as the Aroideae Maximilianae represent printed botanic illustration at its height."

If you have questions about these images, please contact Scott Hyndman.