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CRESCENZI, Pietro de’


De agricultura vulgare.

Venice, [Alessandro Bindoni,] 1519.


Small 4to. ff. 235 [234] (vi). Double column, Roman letter, large Gothic to t-p. Woodcut of Justice to recto and large woodcut from Alexander Grammaticus’s Doctrinale (1513) to verso of t-p; c.30 small woodcuts in text of rural scenes (some repeated); decorated initials. T-p a bit dusty, small repair to upper outer corner, a few lower outer corners repaired, minor small marginal water mark to few gatherings. A very good, well-margined copy in modern green half morocco over cloth, raised bands, gilt lettered spine. Gilt stamp of the Lawes Agricultural Trust (Rothamsted) to spine, some early annotation.

A very good, handsomely illustrated, copy of the Italian translation of Pietro de’ Crescenzi’s famous writings on agriculture, printed in over 50 editions in several languages between 1471 and 1600. Crescenzi (c.1230/30-1320) studied law, medicine and natural science at Bologna. After retiring from a long legal career, he spent much time at his estate in the Bolognese countryside. There he was inspired to write ‘De agricultura vulgare’ (c.1304)— first printed as ‘Ruralia commoda’ in Nuremberg in 1471—a treatise on agriculture based on classical and medieval sources and his direct experience. Like its most important models—Columella’s ‘De re rustica’ and Palladius’s ‘Opus agriculturae’—‘De agricultura’ was fundamental for the humanist re-elaboration of the rustic values of landownership so dear to the elites. The work presents an ideal ‘holistic’ landowner who is knowledgeable about all aspects of estate management, from the architecture of buildings to the caretaking of gardens and meadows, wine-making, bee-keeping, hunting, farming, and the use of trees and plants for medicinal and nutritional purposes. The annotator of this copy was especially interested in horticulture, the gender of plants and the mutations caused by changing environments. The superb woodcuts, many of which were drawn from the Venetian edition of 1495, depict a variety of subjects, from techniques for distilling river water and planning gardens to ways of ensuring that oxen ‘cooperate’ whilst pulling the plough—a tongue-in-cheek vignette, this, in which the artist inserted, behind the customary peasant figure, that of Hercules carrying out his tenth labour of bringing back from the end of the world the uncooperative cattle of Geryon.

Graesse II, 299: USTC 824568; BM STC It., p. 203; Essling, 845; Sander, 2238; Simon 162. Not in Bitting, Vicaire or Oberlé.