Books and wine at the Clark

Published: September 12, 2014

With the summer winding down and the harvest season fast approaching it seems like a good time to highlight a treasure at The Clark which directly observes harvest seasons of the past.  This hybrid manuscript is both a record of a vineyard’s yield as well as a look into a bookseller’s catalog.

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This hybrid manuscript comprises several printed catalogues from 18th century Geneva booksellers Fabri & Barrillot dating from 1725–1728.  Some of the catalogs here are fragmentary but do exhibit annotations which appear to have come from booksellers who had may have had this collection in 1728 in order to conduct inventory work.

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This manuscript gets even more interesting when you look at the many unprinted pages found throughout the bound fragments of the booksellers’ catalogs.  Here, an anonymous land-owner and winemaker from the Burgundy region of France has hand-recorded details of his business and accounts including: tenants, harvest yields, wine sales, and livestock.  The vintner’s records specifically include details of his grape harvest year after year.  This book of record includes entries dating from 1765 into the revolutionary era with 1795 as the last date noted.

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In a time when paper was harder to come by the wine merchant very cleverly re-used these catalogs and fortuitously created this fascinating manuscript blend. This manuscript is a small opening into the world of bookselling as well as farming in the early 18th century in France.  The Fabri & Barrillot catalogs of that time are rare and the annotations may present an original window into the booksellers’ world.  The vintner’s book of record as an artefact offers accounts of vineyards and the wine trade in the Burgundy region.  This curious assembly offers an interesting testimony on both the book and wine trade in the 18th century.

Clark Library Call Number MS.2008.007

 

By Reading Room Assistant Stella Castillo

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