A fine incunable of this important work on agriculture and viticulture, in its original binding

[Columella]. Scriptores rei rusticae. Opera agricolationum: Columellae: Varronis: Catonisque, necnon Palladii cum exscriptionibus & commentariis D. Philippi Beroaldi.

Reggio Emilia, Dionysius Bertochus, 18. IX. 1496.

Folio. 272 ff. Four 17th century calligraphed initials, one hand-coloured and illuminated coat of arms. Contemporary German blindstamped pigskin over wooden boards, two complete locks with brass clasps.


Profusely annotated copy of this influential work on agriculture, including a contemporary manuscript index of 38 leaves. A volume with interesting early provenance, and preserved in its original binding, this copy is illuminated with an as yet unidentified coat of arms. It is rare to find such a beautifully preserved incunable in its contemporary binding, especially when submitted to readership and considering the use for which it was intended.

This important collection of treatises on the sciences of agronomy by classical authors is especially important for the chapters devoted to the cultivation of wine. While all the classical authors in this collection deal with the art of viticulture and wine-making, Columnella's treatise is the most important. Books III and IV are entirely devoted to this specialty.

This edition is apparently the first book from the press which Dionysius Bertochus established in Reggio Emilia. Bertochus first worked in Bologna in 1487 (where he printed a single work); he is known to have worked in Venice between 1489 and 1494. Of his productions in Reggio Emilia, we know of three books printed between 1496 and 1500. A very active and mobile printer, he also published two works in Modena between 1499 and 1500. According to BMC, this edition is based on Benedictus Hectoris, published in Bologna in 1494.

"The works of the four 'geoponic' authors, as writers are called who deal exclusively with all branches of agriculture, have been published many times in one and the same volume. Although all four deal with viticulture and the art of winemaking, by far the most original and interesting writer is Junius Moderatus Columella [...] His Books III and IV are devoted entirely to the vine, of which he describes fifty-eight species; to the choice of the soil and aspects of the vineyards; and to the planting, pruning, and cultivation of the vines up to the time of the vintage. In Chapters 18 to 24 of Book XII, Columella describes in detail the vintage and how to make and take care for different sorts of wine” (Simon, Gastronomica, p. 34).

The binding is most likely German; the decoration is close to the one in the Folger Library (Fine and Historic Bindings from the Folger Shakespeare Library, 1:7) on a 1494 edition of Thomas A Kempis.


Handwritten ownership "liber Mathie de Sweidenitz", very probably by the theologian Matthias Frauendienst von Schweidnitz (d. 1530), who served as rector of the University of Leipzig in 1494/95; several incunables from his collection are known to survive in the libraries of Budapest and Würzburg. The owner has added a very extensive and detailed index of 38 leaves (last blank), bound at at the beginning of the work, and has annotated the work with his marginalia. Later sold by Librairie Rappaport, Rome, with the lead customs seal from the 1930s.


Folio (313 x 205 mm). 272 ff. Typography: 110:R (most of the text), 109:R. Four 17th century calligraphed initials (leaves r3r, z2v, [Rx]5r, L4v), leaf b4r with hand-coloured and illuminated unidentified coat of arms. Contemporary German blindstamped pigskin over wooden boards, decorative lozenge ornamentation formed by the use of floral tools, spine with raised bands, two complete locks with brass clasps.


HC 14569*. Goff S-349. GW M-41055. BMC, VII, 1089. CIBN S-177. Proctor 7259. ISTC is00349000. Brunet, V, 289. Simon, Bibl. Bacchica, I, 42. Fava, pp. 140. Cf. Huzard sale II, 53 and Vicaire, Gastrononomie, 781 (for the Venetian edition, Jenson, 1472).