Pietro Crescenzi
A page from a 1471 first edition of Pietro Crescenzi’s 'Opus ruralium commodorum'. The book sold at Forum Auctions.

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The top-lot of the sale of the Rothamsted Collection: Rarities from the Lawes Agricultural Library was a 1471 first edition of Pietro Crescenzi’s Opus ruralium commodorum, a work sometimes known in English as ‘The Advantages of Country-Living’. It is the first printed book on agriculture, written by a retired lawyer and country landowner between 1304-09. Once owned by an Italian bibliophile, the Marchese Girolamo d’Adda, this copy is in a 19th century armorial binding of red morocco gilt.

Against a £60,000-80,000 estimate, it sold at £75,000.

The library was named after John Bennet Lawes, an agricultural scientist and pioneer of chemical fertilisation at his experimental farm at Rothamsted Manor.

The collection was formed a century ago under the direction of Sir John Russell, the director of what is today known as Rothamsted Research. Founded in 1843 at Harpenden in Hertfordshire, it is the world’s oldest agricultural research centre. 

Rothamsted Research, The Lawes Agricultural Trust and the Rothamsted Trustees consigned the library for sale to Forum. All 819 lots sold over 14 hours, with around 20% by value selling online. The auction total is believed to be one of the highest auction totals achieved so far this year for an auction house outside the top four nationally.

Forum chief executive Stephan Ludwig said: “Being selected by the Rothamsted Trustees to handle the sale was a tremendous privilege. We are naturally delighted with the outcome, all the more so as it coincides with the second anniversary of Forum’s inaugural auction in July 2016.”

Forum Auctions buyer’s premium is 25/20/12%.