L’agricoltura et casa di villa.

Venice, [Aldus Manutius], 1581.


FIRST EDITION thus. 4to. pp. (xlviii) 511 (i). Roman letter, occasional Italic. Woodcut vignette to t-p, decorated initials, head- and tailpieces. Slight thumbing to first gathering, mainly marginal foxing and light waterstaining, couple of gatherings somewhat browned, lower outer corner of one leaf minimally torn not affecting text. A good copy in contemporary vellum over boards, raised bands, title inked to spine.

First edition of the first Italian translation, by the scholar Hercole Cato, of this important treatise on agriculture. Charles Estienne (1504-64) was a renowned physician, author of fundamental works on anatomy, and a printer along with his famous brother, Robert, with a side-interest in natural science. First published in French in 1564, ‘L’agricoltura’ featured material from an earlier Latin work of 1554 as well as essays on horticulture written by Estienne in the 1530s and 40s. Its six books illustrated how to manage a country estate and farm, grow trees, vegetables, herbs, fruit and flowers, plant and harvest crops of cereals and pulses, hunt wild animals like hares, badgers and wolves, including hawking. Unlike other early manuals of husbandry, Estienne’s sought to be both encyclopaedic and didactic, providing thorough information ranging from the agricultural (e.g., how to make wine and grow different plants) to the culinary (e.g., how to make bread, oil, salted pork and chutneys) and the medical thanks to a separate table on natural remedies for common ailments (rotten or black teeth, shingles, viper poisoning, and ‘a sense of burning in the shameful parts’) or everyday problems such as how to make a drunk man stop drinking—by adding the serum of vine branches to his glass or marinating live eels in his wine. A remarkable and entertaining representative of this extremely successful Renaissance genre.

Columbia, NYBG, CRL and USC copies recorded in the US.

BM STC It., p. 237; Rénouard 228/4; Simon 227; Bitting, p. 146 (1627 ed.); Vicaire 344-46 (Latin and French eds only); Schwerdt I, 167.


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