[CATO, Marcus Porcius]


[CATO, Marcus Porcius] Libri de re rustica. M. Catonis Lib. I. M. Terentii Varronis Lib. III. L. Iunii Moderati Columellae Lib. XII. Eiusdem de arboribus. Palladii Lib. XIII.

Venice, Aldo Manuzio & Andrea Torresano, 1514


FIRST ALDINE EDITION. Large 8vo. ff. (xxxiv), 308. Roman and Italic letter, a little Greek; Aldine device on title page and last verso, spaces with guide letters. Geometrical diagrams in the text (Columella, book V). Light age yellowing, title page slightly browned, the odd ink mark, very light damp stain affecting gutter or blank margin in a few places, tear from blank corner of fol. 153. A handsome, clean, well margined copy on thick paper and in excellent contemporary Flemish or Northern French blind stamped calf, upper cover blind ruled to a ‘gril de St. Laurent’ design, outer border pattern featuring elaborate floral motif and two inner borders with six roundels, each containing the bust of a king holding sceptre and orb; lower cover with fine floral device in outer border surrounding an interlacing geometrical pattern, spine with raised band in four compartments, a little rubbed, lacking fly. Bookplate and stamps of Bibliotheca Nicolaitana to front pastedown and title page respectively, modern label on front pastedown. Early underlining and annotations in Latin within first half of the book and on pastedowns, in three or more hands.

A handsome copy of this interesting compendium on Roman agriculture and country life, edited by Giovanni Giocondo from Verona, with dedication by Pietro Bembo. The conjunction of these texts can be found from the Middle Ages. The texts of Cato the Censor and Varro were transmitted together in numerous manuscripts, that of Columella previously lost, was rediscovered by Poggio Bracciolini in the early 15th century, in a 9th century manuscript from Fulda. They were first jointly published in 1472 in Venice by Nicolas Jenson and formed the principal source of information on aspects of Roman rural life, such as wine and olive production, farming, bookkeeping and the breeding and grazing of livestock. The authors, Marcus Porcius (234-149 BC), Marcus Terentius Varro (116-27BC) and Lucius Junius Moderatus Columella (4-c.70 AD), were Roman gentlemen, farmers and landowners. The edition was based on the manuscripts found in Paris by Giovanni Giocondo (c. 1433 – 1515) which contained a more correct version of the Roman texts. Giovanni Giocondo was one of the main representatives of Renaissance Humanism, editor of other Aldine texts and known for his annotated and illustrated edition (1511) of Vitruvius’ De architectura. This edition includes a papal privilege, a dedicatory letter by Bembo to Leo X (November 1513), Giovanni Giocondo’s preface to Leo (1514), two addresses by Aldo to the reader, errata, another preface from the philologist Giorgio Merula (1430-1494) to Pietro Priuli, an extensive glossary of obscure terms, finally a letter from Merula to Bernardo Giustiniani, followed by the table of contents. In the dedication Aldo expresses his interest in these treatises and his wish to spend his old age in the countryside. The text opens with Cato’s De agricoltura (c. 160 BC), the oldest surviving prose work in Latin, dealing with the development of vine, olive and fruit growing. There follows Varro’s Rerum rusticarum (c. 36 BC), divided into 3 books, on farm building and labour, the breeding, management and feeding of animals, especially sheep and birds, fowl, bees and fishponds. It provides the etymology of words, citing earlier authors who wrote on the cultivation of the fields. Columella’s “De re rustica” in 12 books, is considered the most important work on agriculture, characterised by the elegance and purity of the style. It is a systematic treatise on rural economy in general, covering a number of topics: book 1 concerns general matters, such as buildings and labour, 2 soils; 3-5 wines, olives and fruit; 6-7 domestic animals, 8 poultry and fishpond, 9 bees, 10 (in verse) and 11 gardening, 12 a farm manager’s wife’s duties and recipes for wine and vinegar. Book 10 in dactylic hexameters is a sort of supplement to Virgil’s Georgics. Columella’s work also includes a separate book on arboriculture, which is part of a larger work. The text closes with Palladius, who lived c. 400 AD and was the last of the Latin writers concerned with agriculture. His work is divided into 14 books. The first presents a general introduction; each of the following 12 describes the works suitable for a particular month. Book 14 is a didactic poem in elegiac verse on the grafting of trees.

Adams, S 805; BM STC It. p. 160; Brunet, V, 246; Renouard, 66:2. Simon, 593. Vicaire lists the princeps and 1590 ed. only; Bitting includes 2 later editions (Paris, 1533 and Lyon, 1549). Not in Oberlé. Not in Notaker.
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