SERRES, Olivier de.
The Theatre of Agriculture and Mesnage of the Fields. Paris, Jamet Metayer, 1600.
In-folio (331 x 218 mm) of 8 ff.n.ch. including a beautiful title engraved by Mallery, 1004 pp., 10 ff.n.ch.; ivory vellum, handwritten title on spine, two brass clasps (contemporary binding).
First edition of the first modern draft of agriculture.
Olivier de Serres came from a Huguenot family from Vivarais. During the wars of religion, he took part in various battles, including the siege of his home town, Villeneuve-de-Berg, in 1573. He later withdrew to his homeland of Pradel, deciding to stay away from religious quarrels. He spent the rest of his life at the Pradel, devoting himself to his work as a landowner. Olivier de Serres never lost sight of the national interest and was determined to convince the gentlemen to take care of their land themselves. For thirty years he devoted his spare time to writing this book which deals in detail with all aspects of agriculture: land, land clearing and drainage, wheat, wine, cattle, farmyard, garden, water and wood, domestic recipes. This book is at the origin of the development of new crops such as hops, maize, beetroot, murier and even potatoes.
The style of Olivier de Serres is clear and marked by rural poetry. He describes the gardener as "a goldsmith of the earth, because he surpasses the simple ploughman all the more than the goldsmith the common blacksmith".
The work is illustrated with a title-frontispiece engraved by Mallery, figures on wood in the text and eight engraved bands on wood at the head of each chapter representing scenes from country life.
The Theatre of Agriculture is dedicated to Henry IV, who understood at once how this book could be a support for the work of peace of mind and economic recovery he was undertaking.
It is even said that he had a few pages read every day after his dinner. The usefulness of this work, the royal protection and its innovative character earned him an immense and lasting success, as the numerous editions made in the first half of the seventeenth century testify.
Occasional small stains; lower guards renewed.
Provenance: St. Amand's Library (signature on the title).
Tchemerzine-Scheler, V, p. 817; Pritzel, 8630; Mortimer, French, 494; En Français dans le texte, 79; Simon, Bibl. Bacchica, II, 619;
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