IBN AL-'AWWAM.

[Arabic title:] Kitab al-Filahah.

Libro de Agricultura. Traducido al castellano y anotado por Don Josef Antonio Banqueri.

Madrid: en la imprenta real, 1802 Stock Code: 94111
£10,000.00

One of the most important medieval works on agriculture

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Notes

First edition. Ibn al-'Awwam (in full, Abu Zakariya Yahya ibn Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn 'Al-Awwam Al-Ishbili) was an Arab agriculturist who flourished at Seville in southern Spain in the later 12th century. His lengthy handbook entitled in Arabic Kitab al-Filahah (Book on Agriculture) is the most comprehensive treatment of the subject in medieval Arabic, and one of the most important medieval works on the subject in any language. He is the most renowned of all the Andalusi agronomists because his book was the first to be published and translated into a modern language in this edition, then into French by Clément-Mullet in 1864-67, and subsequently into Urdu in 1927. It was thus for a long time the only source of reference on medieval Andalusi agronomy. Moreover it is one of the few works of this genre that has come down to us more or less complete.

Ibn al-'Awwam appears to have been an aristocratic landowner, with personal practical experience of cultivation and land management. He was well-read in the agricultural writings of his predecessors and cites information from as many as 112 authors, especially the Geoponica of Cassianus Bassus, the Book of Nabataean Agriculture attributed to Ibn Wahshiyya, and many Andalusian Arabic authors (the great majority to Ibn Bassal, Abu al-Khayr al-Ishbili or Ibn Hajjaj, all three of whom wrote books about agriculture in the later 11th century in southern Spain, copies of which have survived only partly and incompletely).

The work is divided into 34 chapters, the first 30 dealing with crops and the remaining 4 with livestock. A 35th chapter, on dogs, was apparently planned but no trace of it survives. The book describes the cultivation of 585 different plants, and gives cures for diseases of trees and vines, as well as diseases and injuries to horses and cattle.

The translator worked at the Royal Library in Madrid. In 1781 he sent a letter to his patron discussing this work, in which he stresses the importance of Ibn al-'Awwam as a source for learning about agricultural methods which could be applied in Spain.

The introduction of Islamic methods of agriculture had a profound influence on Spanish cuisine. One of the first innovations achieved by the Moors was the installation of irrigation systems which allowed the harvesting of arid areas, thereby expanding and improving vegetable plantations. The Arab agronomists also introduced natural produce from Asia previously unknown to the Spanish. Many of these continue to be basic ingredients in today's Spanish cuisine and include most spices, as well as produce such as saffron, apricots, artichokes, carob, sugar, aubergines, grapefruits, carrots, coriander and rice. These ingredients remain a firm point of reference for Spanish and Andalusian recipes, featuring in for example pinchito moruno andaluz, a dish normally made with chicken, saffron, cumin and coriander. Another notable example is what is widely regarded as the Spanish national dish, paella, whose main ingredients are rice and saffron. Thanks to the success of such crops, Spain today is one of the main producers of saffron. In fact, along with Iran, Spain produces 80 per cent of the crop worldwide.

Provenance: Sir John Sinclair (1754-1835), Scottish politician and writer on agriculture (Statistical Account of Scotland) and finance (vol. 1 with his initialled note concerning the present work to front free endpaper and a note presenting the volume to him in Cadiz to verso of title). Later bookplate of the Royal Agricultural Society of England to front pastedown of vol. 2.

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Description

2 volumes, folio (307 x 200 mm) gathered and signed in fours. Contemporary tree sheep, spines gilt in compartments, red morocco labels (slightly amended with small onlays to read "Agricultura del moro"), marbled endpapers, red edges.

Illustrations

Half-title to vol. II only, discarded in vol. I. Text printed in two columns, in Spanish and Arabic.

Condition

Joints rubbed, occasional spotting or light foxing, a few small stains, but generally crisp, a very good copy.

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