Fine Copy of the First Printing of the 16th Century's Most Complete Account of Agriculture, Horticulture
(ESTIENNE IMPRINT). STEPHANUS, CAROLUS [ESTIENNE, CHARLES].
PRAEDIUM RUSTICUM.(Lutetiae: Apud Carolum Stephanum, 1554). 178 x 114 mm (7 x 4 1/2"). 648 pp.,  leaves. FIRST EDITION of this Collection.
FINE PERIOD FRENCH CALF, covers with blind-ruled borders and attractive gilt chain roll frame with fleuron cornerpieces pointing obliquely outward, ornate central arabesque, raised bands flanked by plain gilt rules, spine panels with small gilt fleuron, apparently original green morocco label. Title page with printer's device. Front pastedown with bookplate of the Cholmondeley Library. Schreiber 134; Hunt 69; Renouard 106, #5; Pritzel 2746; Simon 223; STC French, p. 155. A little wear to joints and extremities (three corners rubbed, one of them with loss of its leather tip, half-inch cracks at head of the joints, shallow chip out of top of backstrip), title page with a hint of soiling, isolated minor marginal spots or smudges elsewhere in the text, but still AN EXCELLENT CONTEMPORARY COPY with ample margins, the binding solid and without any serious condition problems, and VERY FINE INTERNALLY, the text unusually fresh, clean, smooth, and bright.
As Schreiber says, our volume contains the "first edition of this collection which represents the most complete account of agriculture and horticulture in the 16th century." The seven works it includes were intended for an audience of young persons and readers having little experience with plants and gardens. "De re Hortensi Libellus" ["A Little Book on Gardening"] undertakes to teach children the Latin names of plants and trees (French terms are also included) and how to identify them; "Seminarivm, et Plantarivm Fructiferarum," also for children, covers fruit trees and planting from seeds; "Sylva, Frutetum, Collis," a continuation of the previous work, covers other categories of trees as well as herbs and spice bushes; "Arbustum, Fonticvlvs, Spinetvm," for the amateur gardener and landscapist, discusses shrubs, water plants, and thorn hedges; "Pratum, Lacvs, Arundinetum" treats of fields, lakes, and reedy plants; "Ager" covers fields and grains in much the same way as the "Pratum"; and "Vinetum" is a children's book on wine growing, first published in 1537. In addition to writing on botany and agriculture, Charles Estienne (1504-64) was a physician and the author of medical works. He was also the head of the celebrated Estienne family publishing business from 1551-61, but the house did not prosper under his direction, and he died in debtors' prison. Like item #4, above, the binding here seems as if it could have come from the library of a scholar who wanted attractive books sturdily bound. The fact that the volume's structural integrity and visual appeal have both lasted far longer than the original owner is something to be particularly glad about in the present day. (ST12027)