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Lot 0004
Crescentiis (Petrus de) Ruralia commoda, first edition, collation: [a-s10 t12 v-x10], 210 leaves (of 212, lacking the two last blanks, with blank leaf x8 present), text in single column, 35 lines, type 1:117G, fine 8-line penwork initial in blue and red, each book opened by a penwork initial in green and red, with extension, numerous initials painted in red in text, many with extension in preliminary leaves, rubricated throughout, copiously annotated in three different hands, the earliest annotating German names of plants and fruits quoted in the work, upper margin of first leaf partially restored, not affecting text but slightly encroaching on wisps of the red extension to initial, occasional finger-soiling and light foxing, a couple of minor marginal repairs or restorations, generally crisp and clean with wide margins, 19th-century red morocco, executed and signed by the Milanese binder Binda for the Marquis Girolamo d'Adda, covers within borders of blind fillets and friezes, d'Adda coat of arms in blind at centre of both covers, spine with 5 raised bands, compartments decorated with blind fleur-de-lys, title and imprint lettered in gilt, marbled pastedowns and flyleaves, inner gilt dentelles, marbled and gilt edges, folio (292x208 mm.), [Augsburg], Johann Schuessler, about 16 February 1471.

⁂ A superb copy, with a highly distinguished provenance, of the first edition of Crescenzi's Opus ruralium commodorum [The Advantages of Country-Living], the first printed book on agriculture.

The Bolognese nobleman Pietro de' Crescenzi, a retired lawyer and himself a country landowner living at Villa d'Olmo near Bologna, composed his treatise between 1304 and 1309. Following the tradition of ancient Roman agricultural writers, he wrote in Latin, and divided the work into 12 sections, each of which is devoted to a specific topic. The work is considered the most important source on agricultural practices, husbandry and horticulture in the Middle Ages, and includes hunting, fishing, wine-making, the use of medicinal plants, animal diseases, and a montly calendar of duties and tasks.

The Ruralia commoda enjoyed a lasting popularity during the Renaissance and was frequently reprinted in the 15th and 16th century, translated into vernacular languages, such as Italian (see lots 6 and 12), French and German, and supplemented with woodcuts (see lot 13). Like the earlier manuscripts circulating, the first edition of 1471, issued by Johann Schüssler, the second printer active in Augsburg, after Gunther Zainer, is not illustrated. The work was widely used as a practical handbook, as early annotations frequently found in copies show, as here. "The contents of Crescenzi's book provided anyone who worked on the land with a well-organized manual of procedure" (F. J. Anderson, An Illustrated History of the Herbals, New York 1997, p. 67).

The Rothamsted copy is very fine and was once owned by one of the most refined Italian collectors, the Milanese marchese Girolamo d'Adda - the morocco binding bearing his arms. Later the book found its way to England and into the library of another great name in book collecting, Charles Fairfax Murray, who had acquired d'Adda's library en bloc.

Provenance: lower margin of recto of final leaf with ownership inscription in a German hand dated 1780 ('Ex libris ... à Felsenheim die 21 [?] 1780'); Marquis Girolamo d'Adda (1815-1881); Charles Fairfax Murray (1849-1919; see Catalogue of a Magnificent Collection of Rare Early printed German Books... Forming the First Portion of the Library of C. Fairfax Murray, Esq. : ... sold by auction by Messrs. Christie, Manson & Woods, London 1917, lot 136, "The Marquis D'Adda's copy").
Rothamsted acquisition date 1923.

Literature: ISTC ic00965000; HC 5828*; GW 7820; ; BMC II 328; Bod-inc C-477; IGI VI 3260-A; Goff C-965; Klebs 310.6; Stillwell 615; B.IN.G 578; Simon Bibliotheca Bacchica 1.32.

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Crescentiis (Petrus de) Ruralia commoda, first edition

Estimate £60,000 - £80,000
Get pre-approved to bid live on Tue, Jul 10, 2018 1:00 PM GMT.Register For Auction
London, UK
Auction Curated By:
Rupert Powell
International Head of Books and Works on Paper
Justin Phillips
Early and Continental Printing