The Duke of Newcastle’s Palladius
Manuscript on vellum of Opus Agriculturae, 112 leaves (the first blank), small 4to (155 x 115 mm.), single column (text block: 120-125 x 80 mm.), text written in brown ink in a single minuscule chancery hand throughout, first capital letter of each chapter set out in margin, some browning & spotting due to the varying quality of the vellum used or recycled (several leaves are palimpsests), some natural flaws to vellum including small holes, around which the scribe has written text.
19th-cent. russia, sides panelled in gilt & blind, gilt arms in center of the Pelham-Clinton family. Italy, perhaps Tuscany: early 15th century.
A fine manuscript, from the celebrated library of the dukes of Newcastle in Clumber, of this important fourth-century Roman treatise on agriculture. It enjoyed wide popularity in the Middle Ages and early Renaissance, owing to its clear arrangement, with the farming and gardening tasks subdivided according to the twelve months of the year. It “was clearly more useful than that of any of Palladius’ predecessors. This fact alone may explain the preservation of his text and its popularity compared with that of Columella.”–R.H. Rodgers, “Palladius Rutilius Taurus Aemilianus” in Catalogus Translationum et Commentariorum, Vol. III, pp. 195-99.
Palladius wrote his agricultural treatise with considerable borrowings from his predecessors, mostly Columella, but he consulted other technical writers as well, some of whose texts have not survived. In addition, Palladius seems to have had some practical experience in farming; he mentions his own property in Italy and Sardinia. The Opus Agriculturae was composed of thirteen books: a general introduction and one book for each year’s twelve months.
This text survives in about 100 extant manuscripts, from the ninth to the 16th century. Most of them do not have Book XIV, which was written possibly later and is concerned with special topics of veterinary medicine not already covered in Books I-XIII. The text of Book XIV was separated early and was never widely accessible in the Middle Ages. It was not known to be by Palladius until the 20th century. It was “rediscovered in 1905 by R. Sabbadini, who thought that it was the work of a twelfth-century excerptor of Columella. Identification with the lost book of Palladius was made in 1925 by Svennung.”–Rodgers, p. 198.
Books I-XIII have substantial passages on the care of animals. Palladius also describes a Roman machine reaper and the use of water mills for grinding corn, thereby easing the burden of men and animals. “He mentions corn-mills driven by the water of public baths and aqueducts.”–Singer et al., A History of Technology, II, p. 601.
This copy comes from the famous library of the dukes of Newcastle (their third sale “Twenty-Nine Highly Important Illuminated Manuscripts,” Sotheby’s, 6 Dec. 1937, lot 960, ₤28 to Maggs Bros.).
In fine condition.
Item ID: 6493