The botanical garden of King Louis XIII

The botanical garden of King Louis XIII

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Title: Jardin du Roy for the cultivation of medicinal plants

Creation date : 1636 -

Dimensions: Height 55 cm - Width 70 cm

Technique and other indications: Parchment and coloring

Storage location: Arsenal Library website

Contact copyright: BnF, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / BnF image

Picture reference: 12-564604 / MS 7389

Jardin du Roy for the cultivation of medicinal plants

© BnF, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / BnF image

Publication date: April 2017

University of Evry-Val d'Essonne

Historical context

Herbal medicine

This zenital view of the King's Garden corresponds to the colorized version of an engraving published in 1636 in Guy de la Brosse's work entitled Description of the royal garden of medicinal plants established by Roy Louis Le Juste, in Paris, containing the Catalog of the plants which are now cultivated there, together the Plan of the Garden.

The whole is dedicated to the superintendent of finance Claude de Bullion Bonelles, born in 1570 and Minister of State during the reign of Louis XIII. The coat of arms of the Bullion-Fervacques branch overcomes the legend of the plan, with a helm and the motto Fortis Super Enatat Undas. At the bottom right are the arms of Guy de La Brosse with his motto "De bien en better". Conversely, a cartouche mentions the author of the image and its date: "Federic Scalberge pict sculp et fe anno 1636 ”. Little is known about the engraver Frédéric Scalberge, except that he also depicts military sieges.

Image Analysis

Several gardens in one

Created in January 1626 by order of Louis XIII, the King's Garden is located in the east of Paris, on the left bank of the Seine. It expands with multiple acquisitions. In 1636, the date of the engraving, it was still under development, before its official opening four years later. The site serves as an educational facility with free education, in French, in the fields of botany, anatomy and chemistry. The King's Garden is also a research center on plant varieties across the planet and their acclimatization, an approach that heralds the Memories to serve in the history of plants published by the Royal Academy of Sciences in 1676.

In total, the area shown here from the north on the engraving covers 18 arpents. The legend includes 18 references with cross references. Different walls and fences delimit three large groups and a variety of gardens:

  • The main house and its multiple outbuildings are located at the end of the garden. They open at the back on rue Saint-Victor, in the eponymous suburb. This building houses the steward of the King's Garden, as well as spaces for experimentation, research and teaching on plant species;
  • On the north-east side, the main garden joins the Bièvre river which barred the site before a diversion was put in place. Designed according to a French model, this garden is divided into a multitude of flowerbeds with geometric shapes, from a large perspective centered on the home. It contains in particular an orchard, a cherry orchard, a meadow and a wood;
  • The west parterre includes the so-called “beautiful view” hill, with a series of terraced crops that open onto a garden with less structured forms.


Botanical science

The owner is Guy de La Brosse. Born in Normandy around 1586, he worked as a doctor to King Louis XIII. He was behind the idea of ​​a garden dedicated to the cultivation of plants used for their medicinal properties. He became the first steward of the King's Garden and in 1628 wrote a first Design of the Royal Garden for the cultivation of medicinal plants. De La Brosse worked with the engraver Abraham Bosse (1602-1676) who produced several hundred plates representing plant species. The latter is also the author of a second plan of the Royal Garden dedicated in 1641 to Claude Bouthillier, the new superintendent of finance.

Guy de La Brosse's work refers to other examples of plant gardens, notably in Montpellier, Leiden and Padua. However, he considers that the Parisian project led by Louis XIII is of an unprecedented scale: "It is by comparing our garden to these others, they only seem like small gardens". The site sponsored by the sovereign therefore intends to become a model across Europe, around a science whose challenges are not beyond the control of power. The King's Garden foreshadows the National Museum of Natural History, founded in 1793.

  • garden
  • Paris
  • Louis XIII
  • botanical


Jean-Louis FISCHER, The garden between science and representation, Paris, CTHS, 1999.

Rio HOWARD, Guy de La Brosse's Library and Laboratory at the Jardin des Plantes in Paris, Geneva, Librairie Droz, 1983.

To cite this article

Stéphane BLOND, "The botanical garden of King Louis XIII"

Video: Seed to Strain: Louie XIII


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