Maison Rustique, or, The Countrey Farme.

London, Arnold Hatfield for Iohn Norton and John Bill, 1606.


4to. pp. (xxx), 901, (xxvii), lacking first blank. Roman Letter. Woodcut printer’s device on title, text on verso within typographical border, woodcut initials, head and tail-pieces. Full page woodcuts of the horse and ox respectively indicating their common ailments, half page cuts of the root ‘Mehoacan’ (from Chinchillia in the New World), and of the tobacco plant, 20 pages of plans for knot gardens, six large and four small illustrations of distillation equipment and three half page cuts of land measuring equipment in landscape (one with figures). C17/ C18 autograph of Robert Welborne at head of title page, contemporary autograph of Joan[nes] Cobould [?] beneath. Armourial book-plate of Mark Dinely on fly C19 baronial book-plate on pastedown. Last few leaves creased at fore-edge, a few little marginal holes to first and last leaves. A very good clean copy in contemporary triple blind-stamped calf, a bit worn in the normal places, arms of King James I gilt stamped on both covers, title gilt on spine.

Second English edition, charmingly illustrated with numerous woodcuts, of the Maison Rustique translated by the physician Richard Sarflet, the last English edition before the text was edited with additions by Gervaise Markham. Surflet’s translation of L’Agriculture et Maison Rustique by Estienne and Liebaut (who had in turn translated Estienne’s Latin with many of his own additions), is a “voluminous treatise’ similar in scope and intent to Barnaby Googe’s Foure Bookes of Husbandrie (1577) covering ‘family life, rural diversions, and the curious medical practices of the time, as well as the principles of farming, including the layout of a farm” (Fussell, The Old English Farming Books, 12-13).

The Maison Rustique was the great country encyclopaedia of the C16th. Where and how to build your house, forecast the weather, treat the ailments of your laborers, beasts and fowl, lay out and care for your kitchen, herb and pleasure gardens, tend fruit trees and bees, make preserves, conserve flowers, fruit and other foodstuffs, manufacture medicines, cider and wines, distill spirits and oils, maintain lawns, meadows and fishponds, and bake pastries and bread. The less domestic side of the rural economy – agriculture, horticulture forestry and viticulture – is treated in the greatest detail. The final sections, which did not appear in the early editions, deal with parks, wild beasts and birds of all sorts, hunting (by Clamorgan) and grazing (by De la Court). There is also a section on tobacco and a regional survey of the wines of France.

Fortunately there is a comprehensive index. “The second translation, the Countrie farme (1600), was a massive compendium of agricultural, horticultural, and veterinary information, theories and superstitions. It was one of the most influential Renaissance books dedicated to the improvement of farming methods. Medicine had strong affinities with rural things, in a predominantly agricultural world relying much on herbal remedies. Five chapters are devoted to “phisicke herbes”,’ in addition to many passing recipes for herbal medicines. A long chapter deals with the husbandman’s illnesses, really a general medical compendium: “The remedies which a good huswife must be acquainted withall, for to helpe her people when they be sicke”. The volume, in both its French and English versions, has at the end a “table of the diseases and remedies described”, in which human and animal maladies are listed together without distinction.” ML Cooke, ‘Richard Surflet’. A very good copy of this influential work.

STC 10548. Goldsmiths’ 351. Alden 606/46 “contents refers to tobacco, turkeys, etc.” Fussell p.13; Kress 273. Bitting, p. 448 (1616 ed. only). Hunt 202. Not in Vicaire or Oberlé.


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