PASSE, Crispijn van de


Hortus floridus. A garden of flovvers, vvherein very liuely is contained a true and perfect discription of al the flovvers contained in these foure followinge bookes.

Utrecht, By Salomon de Roy, for Crispian de Passe, 1615.


FIRST EDITION thus. Oblong folio. Five parts in one volume. 1) ff.  (vii) [(-)1, A-C2], forty three plates of flowers, one of garden scene and one of ‘Epigramma’. 2) ff. (ii) [D1-2], one plate of garden scene, 20 plates of flowers. 3) ff. (iii) [E1-2, F1], twenty eight plates of flowers. 4) ff. (ii) [F2, G1], twelve plates of flowers. 5) ff. (ii) (title and engraved title), sixty one plates of flowers with explanatory text on versos, ff. (i) [G2]. Book one extra illustrated with two additional plates after plate 41, “Bulbus Narcisci marini” and “Radix Cyclamini.” Book three with plate seventeen from the latin version, text on verso, bound out of order, plate 24 re-margined (book four has a fine extra plate 24), extra illustrated with plates 7 and 12 from the winter section, and plate 1 of winter section bound at end. Book four with plates out of order (with plate 1 at end of book 3), extra illustrated with plate 24 from book three, plate 7 from latin edition with text on verso (the correct version is added in book 3). Roman and Italic letter. Text to Parts I-IV in English, text to Altera Pars in Latin. Additional engraved title in Latin tipped in, dated 1614, with mythical figures to sides, portraits in roundels of Dodoens and Clusius, verso of general typographic title with ‘The Book to his Readers’ within typographical border, final leaf G2r within typographical border, Altera pars with letterpress and engraved architectural title with vases of flower to the sides and explanatory text to plates I and II on verso, large historiated, white on black and floriated woodcut initials in explanatory text in Altera pars, ink ownership inscription on plate 7 in part II, “Watts Gardener to his Majesty,” most probably Richard Watts, gardener to Prince George of Denmark at Camden House, St. James’s Palace and Windsor, c. 1700 – 1703, monogram in red crayon on title. Light age yellowing, some light soiling and creasing, small tear in lower blank margin of plate 16 in book two just entering plate, a few very short marginal nicks and chips, early ink pen trials to a couple of plates, mostly confined to margins but some into plate area, plates in parts I-II numbered in ink manuscript both in margins and within plate. A lovely copy with the plates in very fine, rich, and detailed impressions remarkably preserved in contemporary English limp vellum, contained in a modern morocco-backed box by Laurenchet, rubbed, and a bit soiled and creased.

The very rare first English edition of the wonderfully illustrated Hortus Floridus, complete with the rare addition of the Altera pars, and all the plates called for in the contents; it “was without question the most popular florilegium ever published,” An Oak Spring Flora. The first edition appeared in 1614 in Latin and proved so popular that it was almost immediately followed by French, Dutch, and English editions. The introduction is enlarged with details on how to colour the plates. One of the earliest florilegia, the Hortus Floridus contains very fine realistic and delicate prints created by Crispin van de Passe, a member of a famous family of Dutch artists.

The book is divided into four sections, each corresponding with one of the seasons and prefaced with an engraving of a model garden. Most of the flowers shown are tulips, hyacinths, crocuses and other bulb plants, the new enthusiasm of the increasingly prosperous Dutch citizenry. Van de Passe’s work both documented and stimulated the Dutch passion for bulbs, which eventually led to the ‘tulipomania’ of 1636 – 1637, when speculation in tulip bulbs led to a financial crash.

Unlike earlier botanical works in which the plants were shown by themselves, van de Passe placed his specimens in a natural environment, often accompanied by insects and animals that provide a narrative element to the images. The ground level perspective of the illustrations reflects the tradition of Dutch landscape painting, characterized by atmospheric and panoramic views of the flat Dutch landscape set against a low horizon, and dominated by a vast and expansive sky. The first four parts include 106 plates by Crispin De Passe, the flowers being classified per season rather than per species.

“The plates are landscapes in miniature, embellished with animals and insects, and with the plants shown growing from the ground with a vigorous naturalism. The emphasis of the publication is on the common garden flowers, with a preponderance of spring bulbs.” Gill Saunders.

These engravings cannot be seen as solely botanical illustrations, as they also echo the artistic grammar of contemporary Flemish and Dutch painting. The following fifth part includes 61 plates featuring 120 numbered fruit trees and medical plants. According to Franken, these last series were executed by a German engraver rather than by a member of the De Passe family. The quality of the engraving is exceptionally fine and delicate and where they are preserved in fine impressions, as here, are masterpieces of horticultural art.

“By uniting scientific illustration and the genre of the still-life in Hortus Floridus, van de Passe made available a precious repertory of floral images for artists such as van der Ast, Ambrosius Bosschaert and Roelandt Savery. Some of the plates of single flowers were copied for other botanical works.” Oak Spring Flora, 12. A wonderful copy, with the plates in very fine impression, of the exceptionally rare English edition in contemporary limp vellum.

STC 19459. ESTC S110319. Oak Spring Flora, 12 .Saunders, Picturing Plants, 36-37; Nissen BBI 1494. Hunt 199; Savage, ‘The Hortus Floridus’, Transactions of the Bibliographical Society, Second Series, vol. IV, (1923) pp.181-205.


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Herbolario volgare

Venice, Giovanni Andrea Valvassori and brothers, 1534.


8vo, 180 leaves, a6, A-X8, Y6 (Yiii and conjugate leaf misbound at the beginning after aaiii, aaii after aaiii). Roman letter; decorated initials, large vignette representing Saints Cosmas and Damian on title, woodcut of Virgin and Child on aaviv, 151 3/4-page illustrations, large printer’s device on final leaf recto; three tiny marginal wormholes to title and first two leaves, small largely interlinear worm trail to final four, clean marginal tear to Yv. A very good copy in contemporary light-brown calf, blind-tooled uncommonly silvered including title on upper cover, double-fillet, roll of fleurons, central panel with keys and crowns (heraldic symbols?) and corner and central floral Arabesque; probably by a provincial workshop of Northern Italy; all edges gauffered gilt; skilfully re-backed, upper corners chipped, three wormholes to front cover, small worm trail to rear.

Very rare complete copy of the first issue (27 July 1534) of the second Italian vernacular edition of the Latin Herbarius. Another issue appeared on 15 November of the same year. The more common first Italian translation was published as a quarto in 1522, whilst this and the subsequent Venetian editions are octavos, apparently designed to accommodate the needs of a wider and less educated readership. ‘The Herbarius … was anonymous, a compilation from medieval writers and from certain classical and Arabian authors, the latter doubtless quoted from translations… It was intended to treat of cheap and homely remedies for the use of the poor, such as could be found in the woods and meadows’ (Hunt).

Like the Herbarius, the text is here arranged alphabetically depending on plants’ names, thus the order differs slightly from that of the original Latin. This edition has a new vernacular translation, interestingly including several linguistic elements typical of Northern Italian dialects, especially those around Venice. It is also the first to be illustrated with a different series of woodcuts, based on the Hortus Sanitatis wooblocks. Chapter 89, usually tackling the Matricaria, is here devoted to honey, while a new chapter numbered 151, on wine and vinegar, has been added. Both these two variations were provided with their own special illustrations, namely honeybees and a wine cellar. The remaining 149 woodcuts all depict plants, herbs and roots, showing in two cases a simple countryside background. The charming Virgin and Child illustration is copied from the Venice 1492 Decameron.

All these popular Italian herbals are very uncommon, but this edition in its first issue stands out for its exceeding rarity. It is quite remarkable that such a popular book was bound so richly.

Only one perfect copy recorded in Italy (Salerno, private collection), possibly another defective in Oxford and in the US (Cincinnati). Not in BM STC It., Adams, Brunet, Graesse, Durling nor Wellcome. EDIT16, 76427; Hunt, 34; Klebs, 16 (no distinction between the two issues); Nissen, BBI 34.


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FUCHS, Leonhard


New Kreüterbuch.

Basel, Michael Isingrin, 1543.


Folio, 444 leaves, +-++6, +++4, a-z6, A-Z6, Aa-Zz6, AA6, BB8. Gothic letter; woodcut printer’s device on title and larger on final recto, full-page full length portrait of Fuchs on title verso, 517 botanical woodcuts (15 with old hand-colouring) by Viet Rudolph Speckle after Heinrich Füllmaurer and Albert Meyer, portraits of the three artists at end; historiated initials; light water stains and finger marking to some margins at beginning and end, small marginal flaw to ff. Ff4-Gg4, barely touching one illustration. A very good copy, partially hand-coloured in the printing shop, in contemporary pigskin over thick-wooden boards, blind-tooled, triple fillet; rolls of interlacing floral decorations, medallions, antiques, grape and vine leaves, central panel with flower bunches to corner and centre; original clasps; slightly rubbed, few small stains to spine and joints; on front pastedown, inscription by Joseph von Gullingstein, dated 27 April 1793, nineteenth-century label of the Bibljoteka Julinska, bookplates of the Squire Library and the Warren H. Corning Collection; on pastedown, seventeenth-century ex libris of ‘Nobilis Francisci Fidelis’, prospective graduate in medicine at Leiden University.

First German edition of the most celebrated and beautiful herbal ever published, issued only a year after the princeps. Here, many mistakes were corrected and five additional woodcuts were inserted, namely those depicting ‘Hunerbis’, ‘Spitziger Wegerich’, ‘klein Schlangen kraut’, ‘Knabenkrautweible’ and ‘Kuchens chell’. Leonhart Fuchs (1501-1566) was an eminent physician and botanist of the early German Reformation. After completing his medical studies in Ingolstadt and teaching in that university, he moved to Tübingen. There, he served Duke Ulrich of Württemberg and contributed massively to the reform of the local university, which became the first German institution of its kind to adopt a humanist and Lutheran programme. A plant and the colour fuchsia are named after him.

Fuchs wrote many medical commentaries and treatises, though this herbal was by far his major achievement. As he explains in the preface of the work, he wished his own German translation to reach a broader audience than Latinate scholars and physicians, who had found in herbals a fundamental medical tool since Antiquity and the Middle Ages and hailed with enthusiasm the Latin first edition of the work. This time, Fuchs’ target was common people interested in the natural world and the popular remedies derived from them. The readers were provided with an index of illnesses treatable with herbs, so as to facilitate consultation. Fuchs’ botanical descriptions are very accurate and mark a significant advancement in medical botany in respect of earlier somewhat crude herbals.

This work dwells on over 400 German and 100 foreign plants, each with its own detailed illustration, and includes the first description of several recently-discovered American plants, such as pumpkin, chili pepper, snap bean and maize (mistakenly considered as a Turkish product). It was highly influential, with many reprints and translations into the main European vernaculars; its woodcuts were reused in all later editions, pirated several times and copied in the works of Hieronymus Bock, Rembert Dodoens, William Turner, amongst others. The drawings were made from life by Albert Meyer, largely relying on the plants carefully gathered by Fuchs in his garden in Tübingen. Heinrich Füllmaurer transferred the illustrations onto woodblocks, which were later cut by Viet Rudolph Speckle. The three artists received the then unique honour that their portraits were included in the book.

Not in Durling or Heirs of Hyppocrates. BM STC Ger., 326; Adams, F 1107; Wellcome, 2443; Nissen, 659; Pritzel 3139; Alden, 543/11; Printing and the Mind of Man, 69 (Latin edition).


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DORSTEN, Theodor



Frankfurt, Christian Egenolff, 1540.


FIRST EDITION. Folio, ff. (10), 306. Predominantly Roman letter, some Greek and little Gothic; historiated initials, illustrated throughout with more than 300 woodcuts, all charmingly coloured by contemporary hand; some foxing, age yellowing, damp stain in lower margin of *ii, ink splash to *vir and in margin of 133v, clean tear at foot of 148v, marginal worm trail to final three gatherings. A good copy in early plain vellum boards; early title on spine and number on front cover, marbled edges; upper joint cracked, little hole on spine; contemporary autographs on title of ‘Benedictj Varchij’ and ‘Lelij Bonsij’; annotation by Bonsi on 39v.

First and only edition of this beautifully illustrated herbal. One of the two printing variants, here the title has woodcut plants instead of printer’s device. All the numerous illustrations were consistently coloured, probably for the publisher. Theodor Dorsten (1492-1552) was a physician and botanist, as well as professor of medicine at the University of Marburg. In recognition of his contribution to botanic studies, Charles Plumier and Carl Linneus named Dorstenia a family of the Moraceae (mulberry or fig family). As Dorsten explains in the preface, he was commissioned by the renowned publisher of scientific books Christian Egenolff to expand and translate into Latin the Kreutterbuch von allem Erdtwaechs by Eucharius Rösslin, published in 1533. Dorsten’s herbal was expanded in its turn in 1557 by Egenolff’s son-in-law, Adam Lonicer.

The Botanicon provides a remarkable account of sixteenth-century botanic and pharmacopeial knowledge. It describes alphabetically hundreds of herbs, along with tubers, spices, fruits, nuts, a couple of mushrooms and some liquids very broadly speaking derived from plants, such as vinegar, resin, honey, but also asphalt, cheese and water. Entries comprise a detailed illustration, the different names in Greek, Latin and German, references from ancient and contemporary authorities, description of physical qualities and healing properties and often recipes for medicaments. Those who followed some of the misleading prescriptions must have suffered greatly. Bitumen is said to cure cancer when mixed with vinegar and stop women’s periods when combined with beaver’s secretion; inhaling its smoke is supposed to prevent mucus (probably), while one gets rid of tooth pain by chewing it (perhaps). Luckily, it was hard to find asphalt at the time. It was mainly collected on the shores of the Dead Sea and thus was known as bitumen Iudaicum. The various uses suggested by Dorsten for cannabis (f. 60r) are equally noteworthy and maybe more appropriate.

This copy belonged to the famous Italian humanist Benedetto Varchi (1503-1565), as indicated by his faint autograph on the title. Varchi possessed vast and multifaceted knowledge. Member of several Italian circles and in particular the Florentine Academy, he was mainly interested in philosophy and literature. Yet, he did not disregard science. Among the 85 books identified as annotated by him, there are important treatises on maths, astronomy, veterinary and human medicine (see A. Siekiera, ‘Benedetto Varchi’, in Autografi dei letterati italiani: il Cinquecento, I, Rome 2009, pp. 337-357, at pp. 343-348). This copy was later acquired by a close friend of Varchi, Lelio Bonsi (1532-post 1569). The two exchanged some sonnets and Bonsi was included among the interlocutors of Varchi’s linguistic dialogue Ercolano. A member of the Florentine Academy and of the Order of St Stephen, Bonsi was also a legatee of Varchi’s will.

BM STC Ger., 253; Adams, D 859; VD 16, D 2442; Durling, 1203; Wellcome, I, 1861; Schmid, Kräuterbücher, 100; Pritzel, 2696.


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Tractatus de virtutibus herbarum.

Venice, Simon Bevilaqua, 1499.


4to. ff. 172. A4, a-x8. including final blank. Roman letter in two sizes, 28 lines first part, 37 lines second part, title in Gothic. Large white on black floriated initial, capital spaces with guide letters, 150 numbered half-page woodcuts of plants (a few misnumbered), bookplates of Carleton P. Richmond and Arthur and Charlotte Vershbow on pastedown. Single worm hole in lower blank margin, very occasional minor marginal thumb mark. A fine copy, crisp and clean, on thick paper, with very good margins, in cream paper over boards c. 1800, orange paper labels gilt, head and tail fractionally rubbed.

A lovely copy of the second Italian edition of the Herbarius, the first illustrated herbal printed south of the Alps. Many of the woodcuts, first used in the Vicenza 1491 edition, differ substantially from those of the earlier German editions. The blocks, cut for that Vicenza edition, were imported to Venice by Simon Bevilacqua for this one. Following an error in the text, the work was wrongly attributed to Arnaldus de Villanova. The text is divided into two sections.

The first part features 150 woodcuts of plants which grew in Germany, arranged in alphabetical order with a Latin name and a description of their  properties and medical uses. Among the best known are garlic, basil, chamomile, ivy, gentian, genista, lily, lemon verbena, mallow, mint, marjoram, mandrake, oregano, leek, poppy, rose, rosemary, currant, spinach, willow, sage, violet, valerian. Among the rarest is ‘artemisia’ or mugwort, a plant used in the past to cure female illnesses and problems. A bath in the water of a decoction made essentially with mugwort and laurel’s leaves would induce abortion of a foetus and menstruation. Mugwort was also used to treat frigidity and sterility, and to keep demons away from home.

The second part, in 96 chapters, deals with the medicines and herbs available from German apothecaries and spice merchants such as laxatives; aromatics, fruits, seeds and garden plants; gums and resins; salts; minerals and stones; and animals and their products (goose-greese, cheese, honey and ivory). The purpose of the work was entirely practical. The illustrations are stylised and full of charm, and the names are printed clearly in capital letters, so that the plants could be easily identified by, and accessible to a barely literate public. A very valuable and popular pharmacopoeia which went through a number of editions, of which the Italian ones display “a different and better set of figures” (Arber p. 17).

“These drawings are more ambitious than those in the original German [editions], and, on the whole, they are more naturalistic. A delightful example, almost Japanese in style, shows an iris at the edge of a stream, from which a graceful bird is drinking. In another picture the fern called ‘capillus veneris’, which is perhaps intended for the maidenhair, is represented hanging from rocks over water” (Arber, pp.192-93). A fine, very fresh copy of this important and beautifully illustrated edition.

BMC V, 524. BSB-Ink. H-104. Early Herbals 11. Essling 1190. HC 1807*; IGI 5677; Klebs 506.11. Nissen BBI 2308. Pellechet 1315. Sander 612. Wellcome 3101. Goff H-69.


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Thaumatographia naturalis.

Amsterdam, Guilielm Blaeu, 1632.


FIRST EDITION. 12mo., (xii) 501 (iii). Roman and Italic letter, woodcut initials and tail-pieces, title page with printer’s device of an orrery. Light age browning, otherwise a good clean copy with C17 annotations, in contemporary English calf, covers triple-ruled in blind, spine remounted, all edges red.

FIRST EDITION of Jonston’s most popular work on “admiranda” or wonders of nature organised into ten categories (heaven, earth, and topics relating to meteors, ‘fossils’ or minerals, plants, birds, quadrupeds, insects and ‘bloodless’ animals, fish, and humans). The work draws heavily from classical sources such as Aristotle, Pliny, and Seneca, but also from the more recent work of Aldrovandi, and in the section on plants includes descriptions of the flora and fauna of the New World, as well as tobacco. Each section is headed by a useful index to its contents, and the work concludes with a poem in praise of Jonston by the Bohemian poet Venceslaus Clemens.

John Jonston (1603 – 1675) emigrated from Poland to Scotland in 1622 and studied natural history at St. Andrew’s for four years. He received the degree of Doctor of Physic from both Leyden and Cambridge. Despite the compact size of Thaumaturgia, his earliest work, its wide range of material prefigures his later, large-scale works on Fish, Insects, Birds, and Trees, made possible by his extensive travel through Europe and access to its libraries, as well as first-hand observation.

Venceslaus Clemens (1589 – 1640?), Protestant and prolific Neo-Latin poet, was forced to leave his native Bohemia after the Battle of White Mountain. His Gustavis, printed the same year as the Thaumatographia, describes the anguish of exile and praises Gustavus Adolphus and the victory of the Swedish Army at the Battle of Breitenfeld, which Clemens credits as saving the Protestant cause in Europe.

Garrison-Morton 287 “A compilation of all the contemporary zoological knowledge”. Wellcome I 3477. Alden II 632/48. Not in Shaaber or Sabin.


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DODOENS, Rembert


A new herball, or historie of plants: their names, natures, operations, & vertues: and that not onely of those which are heere growing in this our countrie of England but of al others also of forraine realms commonly vsed in physicke.

London, Edm. Bollifant, 1595.


4to. pp. (xl), 916, (xlviii). a‐b⁸, c⁴, B‐3P⁸, 3Q². Black letter, some Roman and Italic. Title within ornate typographical border, historiated and floriated woodcut initials, typographical head and tail-pieces and ornaments, occasional early marginalia. Title expertly re-margined, corners of a2 and a few small holes at gutter of the next few leaves restored, light age yellowing, a little soiling in places. A good, clean copy, in handsome modern calf antique, spine and covers ruled in blind.

Third edition (the second printed in England) of the first English version of Dodoens’ celebrated Herbal, translated from French by Henrie Lyte. The work “was a national herbarium devoted to species indigenous to the Flemish provinces. The merit of this book was that rather than proceeding by alphabetical order, as Fuchs had done, Dodoens grouped the plants according to their properties and their reciprocal affinities” (DSB). Henry Lyteʼs English translation was first published in 1578.

Dodoens (1517 – 1585) was the first Flemish botanist to enjoy world wide renown. He was a very successful doctor, physician to the Emperors Maximillian II and Rudolph II and finally Professor of Medicine at Leyden. It was his interest in the medicinal aspects of botany which induced him to write a herbal. A French translation by Charles L’Ecluse appeared very shortly after the original Dutch; Dodoens supervised its progress and took the opportunity to make additions. It forms the basis of the present edition. Lyte (1529 – 1607), after leaving Oxford, travelled extensively in Europe and built a collection of rare plants, which is mentioned by Aubrey. He never published anything original but his translation of Dodoens is of inestimable value. We know from the annotated corrections on Lyte’s working copy, now at the British Library, that he was no mechanical translator, but a painstaking and meticulous scholar who in places introduced his own references and criticisms to the text. Dodoens himself also sent him additional material for inclusion.

The work has three separate indexes: one for the classical Latin names of plants, one for English names, together with a third index “wherein is contained the Nature, Vertues and Dangers of all the Herbs, Trees and Plants, of which is spoken in this present Booke, or Herball”. This last index is essentially a subject index of what plants could do, such as ʻ‘against the bloody flixe”, or “Against Madnesse”, or “to clense and mundifie old rotten ulcers”, with page references to the different plants that would be helpful.

It is difficult to overestimate the influence of Lyte’s work. It was the standard book on herbals and their properties in the English language during the later part of the C16 and exercised considerable influence on both Gerard and Parkinson. So far as we know Lyte was never a physician; Gilman described him as ‘the first of a long line of British amateur Botanists’, but he nevertheless produced a first rate pharmacoepia which must have been invaluable in its day. There are numerous references to plants from the Americas.

STC 6986. ESTC S109768. Pritzel 2345n. Lowndes, II 656. Henrey 112. Not in Wellcome or Durling. Alden 595/21. Arents 19. Arber p. 72-‐‑4 and 106-‐‑8. Rohde p. 93.


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RUEL, Jean

De Natura Stirpium Libri Tres

Basle, in officina Frobeniana, 1537


Folio. pp. [xcii] 666 [ii]. Roman letter, index in Italic, occasional Greek. Printer’s woodcut device on t-p and last, woodcut initials throughout. Age-yellowing, intermittent light foxing (esp. t-p), occasional contemp. marginalia. A very good, well margined copy in contemp. vellum over bds., later black and gold morocco label on spine.

Second edition of this rare and important botanical work – the first general botanical text since the time of Theophrastus – in which Jean Ruel, physician to Francis I, described in detail some 600 plants, as well as a number of species not occurring in the classical texts he drew upon (Theophrastus and Pliny). Ruel also added French names obtained by questioning the peasants and mountaineers during his plant-hunting trips. Divided into three books, the work opens with a dedication to Francis I, followed by a four-page table of contents, and by a very useful eighty-page ‘elenchus copiosissimus’ an alphabetical index of all the species mentioned. The first twenty chapters of the first book contain a general introduction in which elements of botany such as roots, branches, barks, leaves, flowers, germination, grafting, fruits, and seeds, together with their medicinal properties, the variety of colours, and even the smells and flavours of flowers and fruits, are dealt with individually. Next comes a long chapter on nomenclature, followed by numerous chapters of varying length, each devoted to a particular plant. According to the ‘Dictionary of Scientific Biography’, De Natura Stirpium ‘is elegantly written’ and the fact that, instead of a botanical classification, Ruel used alphabetical order, ‘rendered the book of great practical value’. Francis I, the dedicatee of the work and Ruel’s patron, paid the cost of printing. ‘Only a few copies […] can still be found; the rarity of the book is attested by its absence from the libraries of Jussieu and Joseph Decaisne […], both of whom were informed bibliophiles.’

BM STC Ger. C16th p. 760. Adams R 873. Brunet IV p. 1452. Graesse VI p. 188. Pritzel 8850. Dictionary of Scientific Biography 11 p. 594.


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CRESCENZI, Pietro de


Opera di Agricultura. Ne la quale si contiene a che modo si debbe coltivar la terra, la proprieta’ de tutti e frutti, & herbe; la natura de tutti gli animali.

Venice, Bernardino de Viano de Lexona vercellese, for Melchior Sessa, 1536.


8vo. 392 unnumbered ll., A-Z8 2A-2Z8 3A-3B8 +8 (3B8 blank). Roman letter, naturalistic and foliated woodcut initials on five and six lines, some white-on-black smaller, title within beautiful woodcut border, grotesque foliage interlaced with hybrid animals, cat with mouse on upper margin (Sessa’s device), two dragons at base, at A3 verso ‘accipies’ woodcut within floriated and geometrical border, depicting the author teaching students writing; some underlining in contemporary brown ink, text occasionally crossed-out with pencil. Some foxing to edges, mostly on initial and final quires, erased stamp on first two leaves, a good, fresh copy in contemporary vellum, manuscript title in gothic letter on spine, early manuscript notes on turn ins.

Good copy of the Italian translation of the ‘Opus Ruralium Commodum’ by Pietro de’ Crescenzi, one of the most influential mediaeval treatises in agronomy and agriculture. Translated into many languages, the work was widespread in manuscript from the beginning of the 14th century and in printed editions since 1471. The author, born in Bologna around 1233, was trained both in the Dominican schools and Bologna University, gaining extensive knowledge in logic, medicine, natural sciences and law. His career focused on this last field, and after being appointed ‘iudex’ (judge) he received assignments that took him all over Italy for more than thirty years.

During his travels Crescenzi had the chance to visit a great number of rural villas and farms, developing a passion for agronomy and farming. Once retired, he dedicated himself to the project of writing an agronomical treatise in which to convey knowledge and techniques, ancient and modern, theoretical and practical; his efforts gave birth to the ‘Ruralium Commodum’. In his treatise the author often refers to classical and mediaeval authorities, such as Palladio, Varro, Albertus Magnus, Avicenna and the ‘Geoponika’, but he does not hesitate to confute their thesis, adding extensive considerations based upon the practical experience of the many farmers he had known. An interesting aspect of the essay is the public it was conceived for, the 14th century bourgeoisie, especially the class of jurists and notaries who had invested in farms and lands, and needed to obtain a good yield.

The work, divided into twelve books, provides a well-structured analysis of all the aspects of running a farm: having identified all the requirements that a good farm must satisfy to be chosen, it enumerates the different kinds of plants and how to cultivate them. The third book is devoted to fields and their produce, while the fourth, examining in depth the cultivation of vine and the practice of wine-making, constitutes an excellent source for the history of mediaeval enology. Chapters from six to nine analyse trees and fruits, herbs, woods and gardens, at chapter nine starts a dissertation upon animals, husbandry and veterinary, followed by a chapter devoted to hunting and falconry. The practical, original approach of the treatise is demonstrated by the last two chapters, which after summarizing the contents, reorder them according to the monthly and seasonal farming calendar.

A wonderful practical treatise, of great interest for the development of agriculture, enology and farming practice.

Sander 2240. BM STC It. 16 C, p. 203. Adams C, 2931. Dizionario biografico degli italiani, vol. 30, Roma, Istituto dell’Enciclopedia Italiana, 1984. Simon Bibl. Bac. p.35 “Traité des plus intéressants sur l’art de cultiver la vigne et de faire le vin… le livre IV est entièrement consacré à la vigne et au vin.” Biting p. 105 (1564 edn) “The fourth book is devoted to the vine and wines.”


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NIEREMBERG, John Eusebius


Historia Naturae Maxime Peregrinae.

Antwerp, Plantin, Balthasar Moretus, 1635.


FIRST EDITION. Folio pp. (viii) 502 (cvi), last blank, text in double column. Roman letter, some Italic and Greek. Title in red and black with Plantin’s finely engraved device, woodcut compass device on verso of last, woodcut initials and tail pieces. Text illustrated by 69 beautiful woodcuts, 54 of animals and 15 of plants, often signed C.I., autograph “Labouritte 1778” on pastedown, the initials ‘M M’ with shelfmark beneath, early C18th library stamp “Ex Musaeo J. P Borin” beneath that, contemporary manuscript ex libris “R. L. M. Colleg soc.tis Jesu Mons” at head of title page. General even browning (as usual), some light mostly marginal water staining in places, the odd spot or mark. A good copy, in contemporary vellum over boards, stubbs from an early antiphonal leaf, corners and extremities a little worn.

First and only edition of Niermberg’s important and encyclopaedic natural history, devoted for the most part to the flora and fauna of the New World, and particularly Mexico. There had been earlier accounts of the natural history of the New World, mostly in passages of travel books, but this was the first attempt to order them, and can properly be described as the first American Natural History. Many species are described or illustrated here for the first time, and in supplying the indigenous names for the plants and animals described, the work is an important linguistic source for the Nahuatl language of the Aztecs. There is also much information on the culture and rites of the Aztecs and Incas, and of Mexico before the conquest.

Nieremberg’s sources are various but it seems certain that much of this work is derived from manuscripts brought back by Francisco Hernandez, who had made a large compendium of Aztec flora and fauna, using a group of Aztec artists and draughtsmen. This work is all the more important in that the original drawings were destroyed along with a large part of the famous library at the Escorial, and perhaps the charm of the boldly stylised illustrations reflect their manuscript origin. The woodcuts were made by the Flemish artist Christoffel Jegher who worked as Ruben’s engraver and extensively for the Plantin-Moretus publishing house. They include the raccoon, rattlesnake, dodo, toucan, birds of paradise, water lily, coconut tree, cactus, iguana, amongst others, a great deal of them in their first representation in a printed work.

The text is scientifically organised by genus: plants, fish, birds, minerals etc. with much technical observation of animals, minerals, and plants and their properties. There is also a chapter on tobacco and its therapeutic use. The book ends with two fascinating chapters on Nieremberg’s observations on miraculous events in Europe and the Holy Land, followed by an extensive and very useful index. Nieremberg was a noted theologian and prolific writer, born of German parents in Madrid in 1595, who taught humanities and natural history for sixteen years at the Imperial College, having joined the Society of Jesus in 1614. His writings on occult philosophy and natural magic were influential. The book is dedicated to Gaspar de Gusman, Count of Olivares, Grand Chancellor to the Indies.

Palau 190738. Brunet IV pp. 76 “on y trouve des particularités importantes qui n’étaient pas encores connues alors.” Sabin 55268 “the greater part of this work relates to the natural history of Mexico, or New Spain, it also contains some particulars relative to Mexico before the conquest”. Wellcome 4546. Nissen (2 vol.) 2974. Arents 3278. Pritzel 6701. Alden 635/94. Not in JFB.


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