HERRERA, Gabriel Alonso de.


HERRERA, Gabriel Alonso de. Libro de agricultura.

Toledo, Juan Ferrer, 1551.


Folio. ff. (iv) 194 (i.e., 197), lacking final blank. Large Gothic letter, double column. T-p in red and black within woodcut frame, children and putti above, male figures holding scrolls at sides, and grotesques with portrait medallion beneath; decorated initials. Fore-edge of t-p repaired, occasional inoffensive browning, intermittent light water stains to lower inner and a few outer corners, couple of oil stains to lower blank margin. A good copy, on thick paper, in C18 sheep, later label, extremities worn. C17 ex-libris of the Jesuit College of Granada and casemark ‘B’ to upper blank margin, dry-stamp ‘De la libreria de D.F. Caballero Infante’ to outer margin of t-p, Lawes Agricultural Trust stamp to pastedowns (Rothamsted collection).

A good copy of this scarce C16 bestselling manual in Castilian on the best practice and secrets of agriculture—‘one of the fundamental texts of the Spanish Renaissance’ (Rodilla, ‘La Medicina’, 437). Gabriel Alonso de Herrera (1470-1539) was a Franciscan agronomist and brother to the humanist Hernando and the musician Diego Alonso de Herrera. He is most renowned for this ‘Libro de agricultura’, first printed in 1513, which underwent 12 editions in the C16 alone and was translated into Latin, Italian, French and English. It was a compilation based on a variety of agricultural and medical sources, including Greek (Galen and Hippocrates), Arabic (Avenzoar and Avicenna), and Latin ‘De re rustica’ authors (Columella, Cato, Varro and Palladius). Following the classical tradition, Herrera presented a holistic view of the agronomist as knowledgeable in the cultivation of crops and trees, techniques for making soil and water suitable for agriculture and horticulture (how to fix defects in wine), the forecast of adverse weather conditions, farming and herbal medical remedies. He also injected into this solid tradition new ideas—based on contemporary agricultural theories and his own experience—concerning the identification of high-quality seed which should be grown separately from the rest to improve the quality of crops, as well as plant reproductive morphology, i.e., he believed that plants could be masculine or feminine. The intended readership was ‘on the one hand…the more or less rich landlords; but, on the other hand, the medical advice it offers and the therapeutic evaluation it performs of each plant suggest that its interlocutors were the “farmers of towns and villages where the presence of a doctor was inconceivable”’, an illiterate audience to whom this matter was reported orally and whom Herrera sought to reach more easily, for the first time in Europe, by using the vernacular (García, ‘El Libro de Agricultura’, 6, 10). A pioneering, enormously influential agricultural manual. 

This copy belonged to D. Francisco de Paula Rojas y Caballero-Infante (1832-1909), a Spanish industrial engineer.

No copies recorded in the US. Palau 114096; Wilkinson, Iberian Books, 406; Simon 339; Wellcome I, 3135-3137 (1558, 1584 and 1620 eds). Not in BM STC Sp., Oberlé, Bitting or Durling. M. Quirós García, ‘El Libro de Agricultura de Gabriel Alonso de Herrera: un texto en busca de edición’, Criticón 135 (2015); B.M. Gutiérrez Rodilla & M. Quirós García, ‘La Medicina en el Libro De Agricultura de Gabriel Alonso de Herrera’, Romance Philology 71 (2017), 437-66.
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