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Traité des Arbres Fruitiers Tome I by Henri-Louis Duhamel du Monceau

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Around 1750, Henri-Louis Duhamel du Monceau showed the manuscript and illustrations for Traité des Arbres Fruitiers to René Le Berryais (1722-1807). The work consisted of research and writing started after the publication of Anatomie de la Poire in 1730 and 1731. Accompanying the text was the artwork of Claude Aubriet (c. 1665-1742) and Ma(g)deleine Basseporte (1701-1780), both of whom Duhamel hired to illustrate the 16 different fruit species and multiple cultivars. Without financial backing, this work would not have progressed beyond the preliminary stage. René Le Berryais encouraged Duhamel to publish Traité des Arbres Fruitiers and went so far as to help the artists complete some of the original drawings before they were duplicated by the engravers. Jacques de Sève executed the original drawing for the frontispiece, which depicts a man on a ladder picking Duhamel’s favorite fruit, the pear, while a dog watches and a woman, reminiscent of the Greek goddess Pomona, empties an apron full of pears into a basket. Behind the woman, &Pomona Gallica& (translated: &Fruits of France&) is carved into the stone water fountain. Sève’s drawing was transferred into an etched and engraved plate by Nicolas de Launay (1729-1792). The engravers for the published work include Catherine and Elisabeth Haussard, L.A. Herisset, B.L. Hernriquez, Bréant, Fme. Tardieu, Ch. Milsan, Mesnil, Baron, P. L. Cor, Mênil, J. F. Poletnich, Benoist, and Fme. Dupuis.

The text of Traite des Arbres Fruitiers contains contributions by the author’s brother Alexandre Duhamel du Monceau and René Le Berryais. The first volume begins by describing and illustrating different methods of pruning and grafting. This brief but concise description of techniques encouraged propagation of fruit trees throughout France. His intention was to promote the virtue and nutritional value of fruit-bearing trees. Sixteen different genera of fruit and a number of their different species are described in the work – almonds, apricots, a barberry, cherries, quinces, figs, strawberries, gooseberries, apples, medlars, a mulberry, pears, peaches, plums, grapes and a raspberry. Each plate illustrated the plant’s seed, foliage, blossom, fruit, and sometimes cross sections of the specimen. As pears were Duhamel’s favorite fruit, they constitute the largest percentage of the two volumes.

These two volumes bear the arms of Jérôme-Frederic Bignon (1747-1784), librarian to Louis XV, stamped in gilt on the covers. In 1770, he became one of four members of the Bignon family to serve as director of the royal library.

Volume one contains the bookplate of the famous botanical book collector Arpad Plesch (1890-1974). It was from the first of three sales of Plesch’s collection between 1975 and 1976 that this copy was purchased by Mrs. Paul Mellon.

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