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The Gardens at San Lorenzo in Piacenza, 1656–1665

The Gardens at San Lorenzo in Piacenza, 1656–1665

A Manuscript Planting Notebook with a Study, Transcription, and Translation

Ada V. Segre

ISBN 9780884023029

Publication date: 09/30/2006

This fascinating two-volume set includes a photographic reproduction of an anonymous seventeenth-century Italian gardener’s notebook from Dumbarton Oaks’s Rare Books Collection.

The notebook is a record of the planting of three flower gardens at San Lorenzo. It is now believed that the gardens were created for Margherita de’ Medici Farnese, duchess of Parma and Piacenza. The notebook provides insight into the creation of a seventeenth-century garden, from identifying flowers to planning flowerbeds. In turn, these sketches reveal the gardener’s own intentions and reflections on the designs.

Ada Segre’s accompanying study of the notebook is a groundbreaking example of garden archaeology. She considers its provenance and connection to the world of the duchess and her gardens. Segre also evaluates the importance of the manuscript as an object and as a source of information on garden design and practice in Italy during the mid-seventeenth century. Three computer-generated recreations of the garden’s planting beds are included with the reproduction.


  • The Gardens at San Lorenzo is an exhaustive study of an exceptionally rare horticultural notebook in the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library… [U]sing the notebook itself, along with published books and maps, the author has tenaciously pieced together clues from an impressive number of original Renaissance sources—family registers, letters, and the period’s few other extant garden notebooks—to determine the location and ownership of the eponymous gardens and reconstruct their plantings.

    —Patricia Jonas, Plants and Gardens News


  • Ada V. Segre is an independent scholar and former Fellow of Dumbarton Oaks and Villa I Tatti.

Book Details

  • 9 x 12 inches
  • Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection