17 Sep

Byzantine farming book discovered

Kagoshima University has discovered a four-volume agricultural book that was printed in Leipzig, Germany, in the late 18th century.

The 1,500-page opus–a copy of a 10th century Byzantine book–is written in Greek and Latin, and was found in the state-run university’s library storeroom in mid-July when librarians were inspecting old documents to create a database.

The original book comprised 20 volumes, and was compiled at the behest of Byzantine Emperor Konstantinos VII (906-959). Not a single copy of the original is known to have survived. It was a summation of more than 30 agricultural documents spanning 200 years between the first century B.C and the first century A.D. The book was condensed into four volumes and reprinted three times between the 16th and 18th centuries.

Kagoshima’s copy of “Geoponika” is in fairly good condition with, it would seem, no missing pages. It covers a wide range of subjects, such as grape cultivation, wine brewing, olive and vegetable farming, and disinfestation. Records show the book was bought in 1913, although it is unclear why it was purchased.

“The book contains outstanding material that can give us clues about Mediterranean farming practices of the period,” said Prof. Tadashi Ito, who teaches world history at the university.

Copies of Geoponika are kept at London University and the U.S. Library of Congress in Washington, but this is the first time a copy has been discovered in Japan.

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