Le Bon Mesnager. Au present volume des prouffitz champestres et ruraulx est traicte du labour des champs, vignes, jardins, arbres de tous especes

Paris, Nicolas Cousteau for Galliot Dupré, 1533.


FIRST EDITION thus. 4to pp. (xvi) 185 (iii). Lettre Bātard in double column. Title in red and black with grotesque calligraphic initial L, white on black woodcut crible and floriated initials, two woodcut illustrations, woodcut coat-of-arms on final leaf, repairs in blank, engraved armorial bookplate of Damaso G Arrese on pastedown shelf label above. Title fractionally dusty, far lower blank corner repaired, occasional slight browning, the odd marginal mark. A very good clean copy, in early C19th calf, by Koehler, covers bordered with a triple gilt rule, spine with gilt ruled raised bands with compartments gilt ruled to panel designs, edges and inner dentelles gilt, rebacked with original spine laid down a.e.g.

Exceptionally rare edition of this free French translation, the first to use this title, of the ‘Opus Ruralium Commodum’ by Pietro de’ Crescenzi, one of the most influential treatises in agronomy and agriculture. The work is illustrated with two fine woodcuts; the first represents the publisher offering his work to Francis I, signed with the Lorraine cross, a garden scene in the background with beehives, and the the second shows a husbandman sowing grain. Translated into many languages, the work was widespread in manuscript from the beginning of the 14th century and in printed editions since 1471.

The author, born in Bologna around 1233, was trained both in the Dominican schools and Bologna University, gaining extensive knowledge in logic, medicine, natural sciences and law. His career focused on this last field, and after being appointed ‘iudex’ (judge) he received assignments that took him all over Italy for more than thirty years. During his travels Crescenzi had the chance to visit a great number of rural villas and farms, developing a passion for agronomy and farming. Once retired, he dedicated himself to the project of writing an agronomical treatise in which to convey knowledge and techniques, ancient and modern, theoretical and practical; his efforts gave birth to the ‘Ruralium Commodum’. In his treatise the author often refers to classical and mediaeval authorities, such as Palladio, Varro, Albertus Magnus, Avicenna and the ‘Geoponika’, but he does not hesitate to confute their thesis, adding extensive considerations based upon the practical experience of the many farmers he had known. An interesting aspect of the essay is the public it was conceived for, the 14th century bourgeoisie, especially the class of jurists and notaries who had invested in farms and lands, and needed to obtain a good yield.

The work, divided into twelve books, provides a well-structured analysis of all the aspects of running a farm: having identified all the requirements that a good farm must satisfy to be chosen, it enumerates the different kinds of plants and how to cultivate them. The third book is devoted to fields and their produce, while the fourth, examining in depth the cultivation of vine and the practice of winemaking, constitutes an excellent source for the history of mediaeval enology. Chapters from six to nine analyse trees and fruits, herbs, woods and gardens, at chapter nine starts a dissertation upon animals, husbandry and veterinary, followed by a chapter devoted to hunting and falconry. The practical, original approach of the treatise is demonstrated by the last two chapters, which after summarising the contents, reorder them according to the monthly and seasonal farming calendar. Appended to this edition is a thirteenth book on how to plant and maintain trees by “Gorgole de Corne”. A wonderful practical treatise, beautifully printed in fine lettre Batard, of great interest for the development of agriculture, enology and farming practice.

Not in BM STC Fr. C16th. Brunet II, 417. Schwerdt I, p. 127. Souhart 121. Petit 639. This edition not in Simon.


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