Valvasor’s Presentation of Carniolan Agriculture

Written by France Adamič, 1989


Valvasor who was the first eminent scholar in the history of Slovenia to establish himself in the study of natural sciences, was also an authority on Carniolan agriculture. He studied climate, geomorphology, and agricultural crops, observing distinctions between different sorts of ground, soil or earth according to their morphological components and geographical features. There are different types of soils in Carniola. Some are fertile, light and of good quality. There are also clays and loam. However, soils can also be sandy, stony and dry; and are thus poor and barren. Valvasor distinguishes elsewhere between the fields, the tilled fields, the meadows, the upland meadows, the grazing pastures, forests, plains, valleys, hills and mountains. Based on these, he gives a classification of 88 typical and locally determined sorts of soil, fields, plains and valleys, with 31 of them in Upper Carniola and the same numbers in Lower and Middle Carniola. He also characterizes 18 types in Inner Carniola, and 8 in the Karst and Istria.

Although Valvasor followed some fixed method in presenting his characterizations to each definition, with obvious departures from the overall pattern in his presentation of the types of ground found in the plains, Suha Krajina (the “Dry Land”) marshes and the Istria-Karst region.

In chapters 7-13, Book Three of The Glory of the Duchy of Carniola, agricultural crops are discussed. They are divided into cereals, leguminous plants, soil crops, ornamental shrubs, fruit and forest trees, soft fruit, herbs and flowers, in accordance with the botanical and pomological classification of crops at the time. Valvasor gives descriptions of all the varieties of bread and fodder-corn, which in times of need, the farmers of Carniola would use as staple food. He also found leguminous crops, particularly beans, to be favoured food among the Carniolan peasantry. Furthermore he mentions a wide variety of medicinal herbs, numerous spices and other botanical peculiarities. Of the flowers he mentions the tulips (giving the names of 107 cultivars from the Lesičje/Gayrau castle collection). He then lists numerous anemones, irises, lilies, hyacinths, roses and jasmines.

Fruit and fruit growing in Carniola are dealt with in a separate chapter, where an account is given of 18 cultivars of fruit trees and 6 of the soft fruit, together with discussion of the production and consumption of fruit. The extent of fruit growing is dealt with separately, together with the description of villages, boroughs, towns and castles in Carniola.