|Agriculture may be distinguished from horticulture in that agriculture connotes the cultivation of food crops on a large-scale, commercial basis, often including the raising of livestock. The line of demarcation between these two allied fields is far from distinct: the private gardener may market surplus products from the garden commercially, while the farmer will employ horticultural techniques in propagation and breeding. In general, however, horticulture relates to gardening, and agriculture is concerned with farming. They share a common heritage and objective in the domestication and cultivation of plants.|
The development of agriculture is considered one of the foundations of civilization, since the active encouragement of useful plants and animals promoted population growth and a transition from mobile to settled life. Western literary tradition relating to agriculture may be traced back to the eighth century B.C., in the writings of Hesiod. Agricultural writings from the Classical, Hellenistic, and Roman periods are represented in the works of Xenophon, Cato, Varro, Columella, and Palladius. Treatises by these authors were preserved through generations of manuscript transmission, and were published and translated within the first century of printing. Although there was an agricultural recession due to military, pestilent, and climatic disasters during the fourteenth century, the manorial system of agriculture and several agricultural innovations and improvements, including the open-field system, the use of the wheeled plow, the modification of hand tools, and the the yoked harness were introduced during the Middle Ages. Agricultural literature from this period, however, was meager and failed to attain a lasting influence. There were a few exceptions such as the writings of Pietro Crescenzi which passed into the printed tradition, and were reprinted and translated many times into the seventeenth century.
Agriculture in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries set the stage for the vast changes that were to occur in agricultural methodology and technology. This period was influenced by Roman agricultural traditions reflected in the early printed publications of Roman agricultural writers and the works of contemporary authors such as Conrad Heresbach. The changes that transformed agricultural practice between 1600 and 1800 were part of industrialization and the emergence of scientific inquiry. Important innovations include the elimination of the fallow year in crop rotation, a new emphasis on fodder crops, the use of the enclosure, the mechanization of farm implements, and the widespread use of the Dutch plow. Agricultural literature flourished during this period, and the agricultural works of writers such as Olivier de Serres, Richard Weston, Jethro Tull, Arthur Young, and John Sinclair formed the theoretical and scientific basis for practical advances. Humphry Davy’s Elements of Agricultural Chemistry (1813), and Justus von Liebig’s Organic Chemistry in Its Applications to Agriculture and Physiology (1840) marked high points in the advancement of scientific applications to agriculture.
Many of the improvements in European farming techniques were introduced into America by colonizing countries, but agricultural procedures in North America lagged behind European advancements until the late eighteenth century. The first work on American agriculture was Jared Eliot’s Essays on Field-Husbandry in New-England, published in 1760. Following the American Revolution, agricultural implements and practices gradually improved, keeping pace with and in a few areas surpassing European advances, most notably in the development and production of agricultural machinery. Innovation in agricultural technology, improvements in transportation, the development of new varieties of crops and livestock, and the dissemination of agricultural knowledge all contributed to the rapid advancement of American agriculture. The early nineteenth century saw an explosion in American agricultural literature. In addition to agricultural monographs, the published work of numerous local and state agricultural societies, and the increasing number of farming periodicals such as The New England Farmer, Yankee Farmer and New-England Cultivator, The Farmer’s Cabinet, and The American Farmer all contributed to the dissemination of information that influenced the progress of American agriculture.
Agricultural holdings in Special Collections consists of over 550 titles published from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries. The strength of the collection is in American works published between 1780 and 1880, but also includes representative examples of British, French, and German agricultural publications. Of these holdings over 150 titles comprise the publications of agricultural and horticultural societies from throughout the United States, providing a record of organized agricultural cooperation and the spread of agricultural progress across the country. Among the earliest societies whose publications are represented in Special Collections are the Agricultural Society of South Carolina, organized in 1785; the Society for the Promotion of the Useful Arts, organized in 1804 as successor to the Society for the Promotion of Agriculture, Arts, and Manufactures, and predecessor to the New York State Agricultural Society; and the Chester County Cabinet of Natural History, founded in 1826 by William Darlington.
Libri De Re Rustica. Venice: Aldus Manutius, 1514.
An anthology of the agricultural works of Cato, Varro, Columella, and Palladius.
Pietro Crescenzi (ca. 1230-1320).
Pietro Crescentio Bolognese Tradotto Nvovamente per Francesco Sansovino. Venice: s.n., 1561.
Olivier de Serres (1529-1619).
Le Theatre d’Agriculture et Mesnage des Champ. Paris: Iamet Métayer, 1600.
Conrad Heresbach (1496-1576).
The Whole Art of Husbandry Contained in Foure Bookes. London: Richard More, 1631.
Gervase Markham edited this Barnabe Googe translation of Heresbach’s works on agriculture. Googe’s translation originally appeared in 1577, and Markham’s edition first appeared in 1614.
Jethro Tull (1674-1741).
The Horse-Hoeing Husbandry. . . . Dublin: A. Rhames, 1733.
Jared Eliot (1685-1763).
Essays Upon Field-Husbandry in New-England. . . . Boston: Edes and Gill, 1760
The Modern Improvements in Agriculture. London: J. Wilkie, 1774-1776.
An anonymous work in which the author, “a practiser of both the old and new husbandry,” details his agricultural experiments. The book is illustrated with plates depicting several new agricultural instruments, including a horse-hoe of the author’s own design.
Gift of the University of Delaware Library Associates
Arthur Young (1741-1820).
Annals of Agriculture and Other Useful Arts. London: Arthur Young, 1784-1800. 34 volumes.
Arthur Young was an agricultural experimenter, a staunch advocate of agricultural reform, and a prolific writer on agricultural subjects. Young began this monthly journal in 1784. It was published continuously to 1809, with two later appearances in 1812 and 1815. In addition to Young, contributors to the Annals included King George III, Joseph Priestley, and Thomas William Coke.
John Beale Bordley (1727-1804).
Essays and Notes on Husbandry and Rural Affairs. Philadelphia: Thomas Dobson, 1799. Author’s presentation copy to President John Adams.
Bordley owned a large farm on the Chesapeake where he conducted agricultural experiments. This record of his experimentation is one of the first books on scientific agriculture in America.
William Strickland (1753-1834).
Observations on the Agriculture of the United States of America. London: W. Bulwer and Co., 1801.
George Washington (1732-1799).
Letters from His Excellency George Washington, to Arthur Young. . . and Sir John Sinclair. . . Containing an Account of His Husbandry, with His Opinions on Various Questions in Agriculture; and Many Particulars of the Rural Economy of the United States. Alexandria: Cottom and Stewart, 1803.
Washington’s correspondence with the English agriculturalists Arthur Young and John Sinclair lasted many years and covered all aspects of agriculture. The letters were first published in London in 1800 and 1801 and also reprinted in Washington in 1847.
Gift of Joseph Y. Jeanes, Jr.
Transactions of the Society for the Promotion of Useful Arts, in the State of New-York. Albany: John Barber, 1807.
Humphry Davy (1778-1829).
Elements of Agricultural Chemistry. . . . London: W. Bulwer and Co., 1813.
Unidel History of Chemistry Collection
The Yankee Farmer, and New-England Cultivator. Boston: C. P. Bosson, 1835-1841.
The Farmers’ Cabinet; Devoted to Agriculture, Horticulture, and Rural Economy. Philadelphia: Moore & Waterhouse, 1836-1840.
Charles van Ravenswaay Collection
Justus von Liebig (1803-1873).
Organic Chemistry in its Applications to Agriculture and Physiology. London: Taylor and Walton, 1840.
Unidel History of Chemistry Collection
The Ohio Cultivator. Columbus: M. B. Bateham, 1845-1866.
Charles van Ravenswaay Collection
William Darlington (1782-1863).
A Discourse Upon Agriculture. [s.l.: s.n.] 1847. Author’s presentation copy to Miss Batchelder.
Crosman Brothers, Rochester, N. Y.
Crosman Bros’ Southern Fodder Corn of Superior Quality. Rochester: Stecher Lithographing Co. [ca. 1870].
Walton, Whann & Co., Wilmington, Del.
The Great Fertilizer. Whann’s Raw Bone Super-Phosphate. Philadelphia: Lehman & Bolton [ca. 1870].