AUGUSTÍN, Miguel Libro de los secretos de agricultura

Zaragoza, Pascual Bueno, [1625]


FIRST EDITION thus. 4to. pp. (viii) 512 (A3-4 misplaced before C1), 1 large fold-out plate. Roman letter. T-p with typographic border and woodcut vignette of Saturn surrounded by Gemini, Aries and four dragons, 18 ¼- or ½-page woodcuts of schemas, agricultural activities, animals and buildings, 1 fold-out woodcut plate with ‘perpetual wheel’ identifying fertile seasons, decorated initials and headpieces. T-p dusty with scattered light damp spots, slight age browning, small marginal oil splashes to one gathering, repair to blank lower outer corner of 5 ll. and small section of fold-out plate at gutter. A good copy in contemporary limp vellum, traces of ties, library stamp of Rothamsted Experimental Station to front pastedown, illegible early inscription to lower blank margin of t-p, the odd annotation.

A good copy of the FIRST EDITION of the first Castilian translation of this extremely popular agricultural manual. Miguel Augustín (or Miquel Agustí, 1560?-1630) was prior of the order of St John of Jerusalem in Perpignan and a renowned agronomist. Originally written in Catalan, the ‘Libro de los secretos’—informally known as ‘El llibre del prior’ or ‘El prior’—was first published in Barcelona in 1617; in 1625, it was first translated into Castilian and published in Zaragoza, with the addition of a fifth book and an agricultural dictionary in Castilian, Catalan, Latin, Portuguese, Italian and French. The work blends the structure of the successful C16 genre of ‘books of secrets’—which provided information and recipes for herbal medicine and the combination of everyday substances useful for domestic management—with the content of classical ‘De re rustica’ florilegia featuring texts by Columella and Cato. Augustín provided thorough instruction to the ‘padres de familia’ engaged in agricultural activities, including ways of acquiring the necessary knowledge of seasons, medical herbs, weather warnings, agricultural skills and lore, and the proper behaviour to be held in public places and in the running of the country house. The fine woodcuts illustrated techniques for the division of the land into lots with a crosier (‘Baculo de Geometria’), distillation and wall construction, as well as figures of farming animals with lines pointing to body parts most prone to illnesses, and a superbly drawn beekeeper’s hive with bees buzzing around. The remarkably well-preserved fold-out plate provided the user with a ‘perpetual wheel’—with zodiacal signs and planets and blank sections to write down specific years of interest—for the identification of past and future fertile and infertile periods, beginning from 1625-26. An incredibly useful work so popular in the Iberian world as to make J.-C. Brunet confidently state in his C19 ‘Manuel du libraire’ that it was ‘still consulted today by Catalan farmers’ (I, 557). Founded in 1843, Rothamsted Experimental Station is one of the oldest institutions for agricultural research in the world.

Only Columbia and NYPL copies recorded in the US.USTC 5004923; Palau 4123; Wilkinson 20163; Brunet I, 557 and Graesse I, 46 cite the 1626 and 1617 eds. respectively. Not in Ferguson, Simon, Bitting or Oberlé.
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