Les Grands Vins de Bordeaux. Poëme suivi d'une Leçon du Professeur Babrius intitulée De l'influence du vin sur la civilisation. Deuxième édition revue et augmentée d'une préface - M. P. Biarnez, Professeur Babrius [Psued. Dr. Jules Arthaud] 1870 - Féret, Bordeaux - Second Edition revised and enlarged ‘Biarnez takes us on a poetic tour of the Médoc, singing the praises of the classified growths (pages 17-93) and ends with a paean to the white wines of Bordeaux (pages 97-123) and the effect they have on the imbiber: “C'est une ivresse sainte, un sublime délire, Et, parmi tous les vins, notre vin seul l'inspire!. To the rear is Dr. Arthaud’s 51 page essay ‘De L’influence du vin sur la civilisation’.

A finely bound second edition illustrated with four engraved frontispieces and twenty full-page engravings of people in various social “wine” situations related to the text. The engravings are after designs by Pauquet.

Published 20 years after the first, this edition adds further lines to the verses, an enlarged preface, and includes an additional engraved frontispiece, and the original engraved plate from the first edition. The ‘hanging plate’ opposite page 73 has been replaced with the man being led to the gallows, perhaps readers had complained that it spoilt their enjoyment of a decent glass of claret.
  Professor Babrius is the pseudonym of Dr. Jules Arthaud. This Bordelais epic by Biarnez was first published in 1849.

According to Biarnez, there was a wave of genius in Germany when “le vin inspirateur” circulated there, free of odious restrictions and taxes. The Germans have had no Hoffman, Mozart or Schiller since they banned French wines. The poem ends with a plea to French legislators to drink some Barsac to put them into a generous mood and pass laws that will assure to all the poor of France an abundance of wine to go with their “poule au pot.”

The 1840 lecture by Babrius makes for some arresting reading. He sees a strong historical correlation between the quantity and quality of wine, and the level of civilization. The highest level of Chinese art (13th Century) coincided with the highest level of viticulture in China. The Dutch, now that their blood is washed with beer, are unequal to the challenges of current events. The British aristocracy which governs England with such superiority, drinks only “le clairet du Médoc,” supported by the bourgeoisie which drinks the generous wines of Portugal. Unlike Biarnez, he gives some credit to wines other than French, when he attributes the superiority of Metternich to the stimulations of his Johannisberg wine.

Babrius' bête noire is tobacco: “cest l'opium des peuples de l'Occident.” By 1830, he says, tobacco was in general use and the French adopted the cigar as an obligatory appendage to their faces. And of course the result was socialism, armed with the platitudes of tobacco smoke, expounding the right to work, the right to welfare, the inalienable right to live ... at the expense of others.

In the introduction to Babrius' lecture, an anonymous “student” gives us some background information. Babrius was Spanish, a colonel at 26, and when his party was defeated, sought refuge in France, settled in Bordeaux, where the Spanish always enjoyed hospitality. In 1845, depressed by the clouds of tobacco smoke enveloping the aristocrats of France, and what it meant for the future of France, he declared he would study areas of America, Africa and Australia where viticulture was possible and the future destiny of the human race could be assured. He could not be dissuaded, and took passage on the Antilope, arriving at Charlestown on November 8th, 1845. Through his contact, a Mr. Smithson, he addressed the assembly at Columbia and, under state sponsorship, accompanied a group of geologists and agriculturists on a tour of exploration through the Carolinas. He wrote a letter from Wilmington, “sur la rivière de Clarendon,” dated December 1st, in which he expressed great hopes for the future of viticulture in this part of the New World. He was not heard from again, and the writer says that though his bones may be bleaching on the banks of some unknown American river, his memory will live forever.

Evidently, Babrius was heard from again. According to a Dictionnaire de Biographie Française, Jules Arthaud [pseud. Babrius], doctor and writer, was born at Tonneins [on the Garonne, about 100 km upstream from Bordeaux] in 1802 and died there in 1859. He spent his career in Bordeaux and founded the “Revue de la Gironde.” He also wrote “De la vigne et de ses produits,” 1858. I have not been able to find any further details on his alleged American adventure, nor on his alleged Spanish origin.’

With thanks to Eberhard Buehler,
Viniana, for this detailed description.

References: Eberhard Buehler,
Viniana, B43. Simon, Bibliotheca Vinaria 94. Vicaire, Bibliographie Gastronomique 92. Oberlé, Bibliothèque Bachique/Fritsch, 313.

Octavo (binding size 26.3x17cm), pp. [2] [2 (original front wrappers)] xiv [2] 17-184 [4 (publisher’s ads)] [2 (original rear wrappers)] [2]. Pagination includes plates, as published. Collated 28/9/2019.
  Finely bound in later half crushed brown morocco over hand marbled paper boards, spine lettered and decorated in gilt, all edges untrimmed, original illustrated wrappers bound in at front and rear   Condition: Near fine, some soiling to wrappers, mostly uncut and unopened, in fine binding.   Ref: 103463   Price: HK$ 7,000