Herrad's work was lost in the bombing of Frankfurt in 1870. Canon Straub of the cathedral of Strasbourg was selected to edit the traces (is mandate was Colligite fragmenta quea supersunt!) but there were no photographs nor copies since the only complete reproduction of the codex had been destroyed together with the original.
Alexandre Straub and Gustave Keller soon published fascicles containing as many tracings of the texts and miniatures they were able to collect. A precious source was the work of Christian Maurice Engelhardt, who copied around 40 miniatures in the years 1815-1818. In spite of further incomplete and irregular publications, the Hortus deliciarum has been always recognized as one of the most ambitious and splendid manuscript of the Middle Ages.
It is the first encyclopedia that was evidently composed under the direction of a woman, Herrad of Landsberg Abbess of Hohenburg. Under her wise and far-sighted administration the monastery of Hohenburg reached the highest point of prosperity and glory.
Herrad brought order in the finances, care in the management of the properties and regularity and monastic discipline to the nuns under her authority. In the preface of the Hortus Deliciarum she wrote to her nuns: "I myself, the little bee, composed this book titled Garden of Delights, and drew from the sap of the diverse flowers of Holy Scripture and from philosophical works, inspired by God, and I constructed it by my love for you, in a manner a honeycomb full of honey for the honor and the glory of Jesus Christ and the Church. For this reason I urge you to study this book often and seek the sweet fruit it contains, to refresh your tired spirit by the drops of its honey so that, nourished by its spiritual sweetness, you would be able to confront without danger the transient things of this world; for myself, having traversed the dangerous routes of this stormy sea, I will be protected from all earthly affection; and by your intense prayer be borne with you to heaven, in the love of your beloved Christ!"
Her book is a collection of pieces culled from all the branches of human knowledge. They were drawn from Holy Scripture, the Fathers of the Church and other authors, intermingled with her graceful poetry of which some was put to music, for Herrad was a poetess as well as a musician. The whole book was illustrated with numerous miniatures which are of major interest for the history of painting and of the costumes of that far epoch as well as for the history of Christian symbolism.
Originally unbound and subsequently bound in tooled pigskin over wood boards. Kept in a red velvet slipcase.
We have 2 facsimiles of the manuscript "Hortus Deliciarum":
- Hortus Deliciarum facsimile edition published by Caratzas Brothers, Publishers, 1977
- Hortus Deliciarum facsimile edition published by The Warburg Institute, 1979