:: Gabriel Alonso de Herrera (c.1475 - c.1540) ::
:: Obra de Agricultura, Alcalá de Henares, 1513 ::
:: as transcribed from the Medina del Campo edition of 1584 ::
When Herrera first published his Obra de Agricultura
in 1513, it was only the second general treatise on agriculture to have
been written in any European language in more than 1000 years; thus, by
any standard, a pioneering work. Yet in it he describes an approach to
making wine essentially unchanged during that entire millenium; for that
matter, in Spain and Portugal today, nearly 500 years later, one can easily
find those same techniques in routine use, as they have been, in other
words, since the fall of Rome.
As usual, I think it's fair at this point to ask why any of this should
matter to us now, for other than academic reasons. The answer is the education
of the senses, in the profound sense of an éducation sentimentale
(for which, of course, the equivalent term - a sentimental education -
exists in English but is no longer comprehended; perhaps because the process
:: POLIDORE VIRGILE (1470-1555) ::
:: The origins of Poetrie, Hystories, Musyke, Wyne, Vyneyards, Bere, Hoores, Daunsyng, Maiyng, Mummyng, & Midsomer Bonefyres, in the Tudor English translation & abridgement of the De Inventoribus Rerum by Thomas Langley. (In English)
The following excerpts are from An Abridgement of the notable worke
of POLIDORE VIRGILE conteignyng the deuisers and fyrst fynders out aswell
of Artes, Ministeries, Feactes and ciuil ordinaunces, as of Rites, and
Ceremonies, commonly vsed in the churche: and the originall beginnyng
of the same. Compendiously gathered by Thomas Langley. Imprinted at London
vvithin the precincte of the late dissolued house of the grey Friers,
by Richarde Grafton Printer to the Princis grace, the xxv. daie of Ianuarie,
the yere of Our Lorde, M.D.XLVI. 
Polidore Virgile was Polidoro Virgilio (1470-1555), a native of Urbino,
who came to England in 1502. His De Inventoribus Rerum, of which
this is an English-language abridgement, was a Renaissance best-seller,
going on to at least 110 different editions in a half-dozen languages.
The first printed version of it was published in 1499, although expanded
editions appeared for years later; and it was written originally at the
request of the Duke of Urbino, Guidobaldo da Montefeltro, son of Federigo
da Montefeltro, who had made Urbino the quintessential symbol of enlightened
Quattrocento culture, and made his own Palazzo Ducale the symbol of Urbino.
:: CLAUDE COTEREAU ::
:: Les Douze Livres de Lucius Iunius Moderatus Columella des choses Rusticques, Paris, 1551 ::
:: An astonishing Renaissance hymn to mankind, to the wonder of the human hand, to the ravishment of body and soul, and to the dignity of agriculture, by Claude Cotereau ( b. 1499), canon of Notre-Dame de Paris, from his preface to the first translation of Columella into French.
:: JACOBUS PRÆFECTUS ::
:: De diversorum vini generum natura liber, Venice, 1559 ::
:: A Renaissance symposium, which in this excerpt discusses the mysteries of the origins & nature of flavor & aroma in wine. (In Latin)
About Jacobus Præfectus, little is known that he himself does not
tell us on the title-page of this text. According to Oberlé (Fritsch,
58), two other works by him are known, but nothing else; according to
Auvermann, Præfectus was physician to Pope Paul III, and may have
circulated this text in manuscript at the Papal court under the title
Symposium de vinis, as a memorial to a splendid banquet held in
honor of Paul IV.
:: LEONARDO FIORAVANTI ::
:: De Capricci Medicinale, Venice, 1564 ::
:: In this brief excerpt, Dr. Fioravanti, who spent many years learning to distinguish Trebbiano from urine, shares with us why it is important, and how it is possible, to make that distinction. (In Italian, with a summary in English)
:: ESTIENNE & LIÉBAULT ::
:: L'Agriculture et Maison Rustique, Paris, 1564/ca.1582 ::
:: The most popular text ever written on the managing of a rural life, and the first ever written in French; including the most important early description of the wines of France, which, for reasons unknown to myself, few seem to realize exists ::
Estienne & Liébault's L'Agriculture et Maison Rustique was
not the first such text to have been written after the fall of the classical
world: that would be the Crescenzi. It was not the first to be written
after the invention of printing: that would be the Herrera. It was not
even the French text most French historians would say was the most important
of its kind: that would be the de Serres. But it was the first to be written
in French, and it was undeniably the most popular.
Understandably, the principal author of L'Agriculture et
Maison Rustique de MM. Charles Estienne et Jean Liebault is normally
taken to be Charles Estienne. Born circa 1504 into the most famous
family of printers in France, Charles showed a strong bent for medecine
and classical scholarship. In keeping with the latter interest, he produced,
during the 1530's and 40's, a series of small books intended to teach
the terminology of classical (Latin) agriculture to the young; in 1554,
he put these all together in a single volume, which he published under
the title, Prædium Rusticum. Exasperatingly, perhaps because
the titles resemble each other, bibliographers have for centuries blandly
pronounced the later Maison Rustique to be the translation into
French of Estienne's earlier latin text; to which in fact it bears no
resemblance beyond the general subject of agriculture.
1. For our purposes here, by far the most important addition Liébault
made to the original text of 1564 is his extensive Discours passager
sur l'invention, nature, facultez, difference & necessité du vin,
which, in the Rouen edition of 1665 that I have used for this transcription,
occupies some 22 pages of quite small type at the end of the sixth book.
:: GIROLAMO CARDANO ::
:: Les livres de Hierome Cardanus medecin Milannois, intitulez de la Subtilité, & subtiles inuentions, ensemble les causes occultes, & raisons d'icelles. Traduis de Latin en Françoys, par Richard le Blanc (Paris, 1566) ::
:: Volupté ::
Although the life of Girolamo Cardano (1501-1576) might seem as though
it could only have been written by Dostoevsky, in fact Cardano wrote it
himself, in a book entitled De vita propria liber. It is perhaps
the most intensely confessional autobiography of the Renaissance, and
is the reason we know as much about him as we do.
:: AGOSTINO GALLO ::
:: Le Dieci Giornate della vera Agricoltura, e Piaceri della Villa, Venice, (1565?) 1566 ::
:: The complete wine-making instructions from the most important agricultural text of the Italian Renaissance, in its very rare first edition ::
Even though Agostino Gallo (1499-1570) wrote what is undoubtedly the most
important agricultural text of the Italian Renaissance, describing it
as such gives an almost misleading impression both of the text and of
its author, perhaps because we so often assume that agricultural writing
will be bland and the Renaissance elegant, while Gallo most emphatically
was neither. In fact, the emotional passion of his devotion to the details
of agriculture can be downright alarming, and could hardly have been less
elegantly expressed. But I'm sure this made him all the more convincing
to the only audience he would have cared about, or that would have cared
about him: those enough interested in such details themselves to understand
that if Gallo wrote as though human life depended on them, that's because
1. There are two images that accompany this text file, and I do recommend
that you download them if you intend to read the text itself. The first
is the portrait referred to above, which appears as the frontispiece to
the edition of Le Vinti Giornate published in Brescia in 1775.
The second is a woodcut of a wine filter that Gallo describes in detail,
but which would be difficult to envision without the illustration, which
is taken from the 1591 Borgomineri edition of Le Vinti Giornate.
Both are available on the website.
:: AGOSTINO GALLO ::
:: Secrets de la vraye agriculture, Paris, 1572 ::
:: A beautiful translation, by François de Belleforest, of the wine-making instructions in the most important Italian agricultural text of the 16th century, Agostino Gallo's Le Vinti giornate dell'agricoltura et de'piaceri della villa (1569). (In French)
Agostino Gallo (1499 - 1570) was a nobleman & staunch patriot of the city
of Brescia, and for whatever reason, unlike most noblemen of his time,
a fervent believer in the virtues of agriculture. Even more unlike most
agricultural authors of his time, he believed in agriculture not because
he'd read about it in Virgil, but because he practised it, experimented
with every detail, thought about the results, and then, and only then,
described them. He is often called, by the few who've ever heard of him,
the father of Italian agriculture, and it's easy to see why; he's worth
reading. I'm sure that most of my Californian enological brethern will
be distressed to learn that someone so genuinely central in the history
of Italian viticulture and wine-making should have been named "Gallo",
but I'm afraid that such is the case.
:: ALESSANDRO PETRONIO ::
:: Del Viver delli Romani et di Conservar la Sanità, Rome, 1592 ::
Since we now think of sparkling wine nearly exclusively in terms of Champagne
and its imitations, it is easy to assume that wine didn't sparkle until
the Champenois taught theirs to do so, and found bottles to put it in.
:: GIOVANVETTORIO SODERINI ::
:: Trattato della Coltivazione delle Viti e del Frutto, che se ne puo' cavare ::
:: A remarkably complete, eccentric, and interesting treatise on wine-making by a Florentine Renaissance aristocrat, Giovanvettorio Soderini. (In Italian)
Giovanvettorio Soderini (1526-1596) was a Florentine nobleman of the highest
rank, and I don't know what turned him toward agriculture. But, while
living - apparently in exile - at the "deliziosa Villa di Cedri,"
a property of the Alamanni family near Volterra, he produced a four-volume
manuscript on agriculture & the related pleasures of a country estate.
Perhaps it's only a coincidence, but I would imagine not, that Luigi Alamanni
(the elder) had himself written a famous work on agriculture, in the manner
of Virgil's Georgics, called La Coltivazione.