Johann Conrad von Gemmingen reigned as the Prince-Bishop of Eichstaett from 1593 to 1612. He worked to improve the churches in his see, embellished the cathedral and rebuilt the Willibaldsburg, his family palace. His greatest joy was the cultivation of a great garden, the finest in Europe outside Italy, in which he attempted to collect a specimen of every known plant in the world, importing exotic flora from mission territories worldwide. The garden was to be a recreation of Eden on Earth, a sanctuary of the unfallen world in a Europe wracked by the wars of Reformation.
The Hortus Eystettensis, a monumental florilegium illustrating the plants, was commissioned by the Prince-Bishop. Basilius Besler, an apothecary, oversaw its production, publishing the first edition in 1613.