A few days ago, while talking to a very good friend, I noticed that he was reading something different... so later I asked him about the book that he was holding and almost like it was the most normal thing he said: "I bought it online some time ago, for a couple hundred euros. Check it out!" When I did, I couldn't believe the amazing treasure that was open in front of my very eyes.
"The experinced farmer" from Cosimo Trinci
with the preface of Abbot Genovesi
Reprinted in Naples MDCCLXIX 1769
The following humble and benevolent dedication to the kind reader ends up like this:
Accept only the good desire, that I had to benefit not only my regarded and most noble Homeland, but also the people of the Villages, and all those to whom (in latin) is enjoyable to spend time in the fields, that are those for who, rather than the educated people, I have roughly composed my Book; and live happy.
This really does it for me... some 250 years (two- hundreds- fifty) later, here I am holding this handmade book on farming, written when there were no machinery in the fields and everything was organic. People made the best of the sunlight, then oil lamps or candles were the only choice to keep up doing things after sunset.
The book is quite famous in its genre, if you consider the time in which it was written: it's about 30 years before the french revolution. The preface is written by abbot Genovesi, which had to be a very open-minded and cultured scholar. It's really very interesting. Check this out.
There are quotes from both french and english philosophers and data about italian population: according to the french book "Les nombre des Hommes" there were 18 million people in Italy and 7 millions only in the kingdom of Naples. Although in that time, the english philosopher David Hum considered these data way overestimated, they had no doubt that the population of Italy had drastically declined since the times of the Roman Empire. Why did it happen? Many reasons caused this and the analysis he makes is really wise and well detailed.
(1) Primitive farming methods. Only rough low class people were looking after the fields.
(2) Useless philosophy. Scholars and scientists were always looking after happiness in abstract systems but not in the Nature like it used to be in the ancient times (he knows!) and too much thinking, laziness, ambition and avidity have destroyed the possibility to be happy in their lives.
(3) The debasement of the farmers is caused by the unfair distribution of properties: farmers working on their own land are much more motivated than those working on other's properties. According to some official records from 1712, in the following 50 years, he says that 6/9 of all properties are owned by clergy; 2/9 are owned by upper class gentlemen and foreigners; only 1/9 is owned by countryside people. Because of this only 1/9 of land is properly managed but the other 8/9 produce only one third of what they could.
So before, he says, "one of those enthusiasms and vapors, to which every now and then people are subjected, is going to generate some scandals" (bear in mind he was writing 30 years before french revolution) what could be the solutions for this situation? Right on!
(1) Gentlemen and scientists should employ themselves in Agriculture.
(2) Leveling of land ownership in small plots.
(3) It would be good also for clergy people to get interested in Agriculture.
(4) Stop cruelty against low class people. Quoting (in english) Milord Halifax from his Political thoughts and reflections: "The Heart of the Subjects yieldeth but a lean Crop, where it is not cultivated by a wise Prince".
These acknowledgements by the abbot Genovesi are just plain wisdom. He had definitely a brave attitude and genuine sympathy for poor people, for the collective benefit of making Nature thrive again.
Check out the leather stitches holding the corners together and all the marks of Time, while over a dozen generations passed on this very object and the knowledge that it carries. Yes, the whole cover is made of leather. I am just totally blown away.
This is just the beginning of course. The most amazing things are yet to come as I read on and study the most improved methods of farming before the revolutions (and disasters) of modern times: before herbicides and fertilizers, before tractors, before wide-spread monoculture.
It's some sort of archeo-Permaculture.
You will find out everything, as I am humbly leading you to the next steps along this journey in the history of farming, when everything was organic.