Duhamel, Henri-Louis du Monceau
Henri Louis Duhamel du Monceau (1700-1782), French agriculturist and tree expert. He did experimental work on plant physiology and ecology and wrote The Elements of Agriculture (1762, tr. 1764) and other standard works on agriculture and on the distribution and culture of trees and shrubs.
These beautiful hand colored copperplate engravings have been selected from a French work entitled “Traité des Arbres Fruitiers”, published in Paris in 1768 under the supervision of Henri Louis Duhamel du Monceau.
Around 1750, Henry-Louis Duhamel du Monceau showed the manuscript and illustrations for Traité des Arbres Fruitiers to René Le Berryais (1722-1807). The work consisted of research and writing started after the publication of Anatomie de la Poire in 1730 and 1731. Accompanying the text was the artwork of Claude Aubriet (c. 1665-1742) and Magdeleine Basseporte (1701-1780), both of whom Duhamel hired to illustrate the 16 different fruit species and multiple cultivars.
Without financial backing, this work would not have progressed beyond the preliminary stage. René Le Berryais encouraged Duhamel to publish Traité des Arbres Fruitiers and went so far as to help the artists complete some of the original drawings before they were duplicated by the engravers.
Henri Louis Duhamel du Monceau (1700-1782) was one of the most important French writers on fruit, plant physiology and agriculture, in this field he was one of the outstanding botanists of the eighteenth century (Raphael) and Traité des Arbres Fruitiers is among the finest of fruit books. The first volume begins by describing and illustrating different methods of pruning and grafting.
This brief but concise description of techniques encouraged propagation of fruit trees throughout France. His intention was to promote the virtue and nutritional value of fruit-bearing trees. Sixteen different genera of fruit and a number of their different species are described in the work – almonds, apricots, a barberry, cherries, quinces, figs, strawberries, gooseberries, apples, medlars, a mulberry, pears, peaches, plums, grapes and a raspberry. Each plate illustrated the plant’s seed, foliage, blossom, fruit, and sometimes cross sections of the specimen. As pears were Duhamel’s favorite fruit, they constitute the largest percentage of the two volumes.
Jacques de Sève executed the original drawing for the frontispiece, which depicts a man on a ladder picking Duhamel’s favorite fruit, the pear, while a dog watches and a woman, reminiscent of the Greek goddess Pomona, empties an apron full of pears into a basket. Behind the woman, Pomona Gallica is carved into the stone water fountain. Sève’s drawing was transferred into an etched and engraved plate by Nicolas de Launay (1729-1792).
The engravers for the published work include Catherine and Elisabeth Haussard, L.A. Herisset, B.L. Hernriquez, Bréant, Fme. Tardieu, Ch. Milsan, Mesnil, Baron, P. L. Cor, Mênil, J. F. Poletnich, Benoist, and Fme. Dupuis.