12mo (149 x 82 mm.).  ff., xxxvi, 319,  pp. Engraved frontispiece of a gardener in classical setting, by Benoît Louis Prévost, Barbou’s woodcut device on title, woodcut, typographic and engraved head- & tailpieces. Publisher’s list of other works from the Collection d’Auteurs Latins on last page. Printed on pale blue paper (papier bleuté). Fine. Contemporary French gold-tooled red morocco, covers tooled to a dentelle design, smooth spine gilt with flower tools, edges gilt, blue watered silk liners (light scuffing to extremities, faint stain on front cover). Provenance: bookplates of Charles Lormier (oval monogrammed booklabel with motto Vita sina litteris mors est; sale, 7 parts, Paris, 1901-1907); Jules Lemaître (sale, Paris, 18 June 1917, no. 443); Henri Beraldi (sale, part 3, Paris, 18 Dec. 1934, no. 212); and Alain de Rothschild.***
A beautifully bound, bibliophiles’ copy of an erudite edition of Rapin’s influential neo-Latin didactic poem on gardens, first published in 1665, translated into English by John Evelyn in 1672-73, and celebrated for its early descriptions of the classical French garden. Written to “complete” Virgil’s Georgics, Rapin (”the father of Jesuit Georgic poetry” – Haskell) treats in turn the flower garden (Flores), park (Nemus), water (Aquae), and the fruit garden (Pomarium). While his aim was literary rather than practical, Rapin’s descriptions, especially of the park and waterworks as means of imposing order on nature, accurately portrayed the symmetrical, stylized French garden perfected during the reign of Louis XIV.
This edition includes Rapin’s later prose essay on classical and modern horticulture. The editor Brotier added a biographical introduction, exhaustive notes, his own essay on gardens, and an index of plant names in Latin and French.
Rapin, whose poem is packed with classical allusions, was one of a handful of modern writers to be included in Joseph-Gérard Barbou’s Collection d’Auteurs Latins, all 68 volumes of which could be purchased (bound in calf) for 395 livres, as advertised on the last page. Quérard VII:454; Brunet IV:1114; de Backer-Sommervogel VI:1446. Cf. Gothein, History of Garden Art (1913), online, art. “René Rapin’s garden poetry”; Y. A. Haskell, Loyola's Bees: Ideology and Industry in Jesuit Latin Didactic Poetry (2003), pp. 17-38. Item #3117