The Boke of Husbandry.

London, In fletestrete in the house of Thomas Berthelet, .. at the sygne of Lucrece, [ca. 1540?].


8vo. ff. [vi], 90. A, B-M, N². [Lacking G4] Black letter, Title in roman. Title within fine woodcut border, McKerrow & Ferguson 30, with “1534″ in lower border, historiated woodcut initials, occasional early manuscript annotation, stamp of ‘Rothamstead experimental station” on verso of t-p., and Lawes Agricultural trust, on rear pastedown. Light age yellowing, rare marginal thumb mark or stain, early manuscript annotation partly torn from the blank margin of E8. A very good copy with good margins, in contemporary English calf, original covers remounted, quadruple blind ruled to a panel design outer panel filled with blind roll of acanthus leaves vases and griffins, (Oldham, FP. f (6) 679) rebacked.

Extremely rare and early edition of this most important book on husbandry by John Fitzherbert beautifully printed in elegant black letter by Thomas Berthelet. “The importance of the ‘Boke of Husbandry cannot be overestimated. It did more to popularise ideas about husbandry and improvement than any previous work, and the many editions and imitators in the rest of the century attest to its significance throughout society. Fitzherbert’s ‘boke’ was extremely popular and remarkably brief – issues that may well be connected. The 1540 octavo, only ninety pages, is devoted to promoting the efficient use of natural resources. Fitzherbert returns repeatedly to the concept of ‘improvement’, a word he uses in the sense of enclosing, cultivating, and increasing the value of land. Indeed, the verb ‘manure’ was often used to mean ‘improve’, and in the 1500s the primary definition was ‘to till or cultivate land.’ Furthermore, the first meaning of ‘improve’ was to put to profit, to enclose and the bringing into cultivation of wasteland. Fitzherbert was committed to the notion of cultivating waste land in order to ‘improve’it, to make it better to increase its value. The rash of editions that followed into Elizabeth’s reign demonstrates the extent to which these ideas found a captive audience among the literate husbandmen, yeoman and gentry.” John Patrick Montaño. ‘The Roots of English Colonialism in Ireland.’ “The appearance of Fitzherbert’s ‘Bokes’ and subsequent sixteenth-century husbandry manuals marked a watershed in the evolution of a discourse that influenced landowners to improve their land. He was arguably the first to emphasise the role of landowning as an economic activity while promoting the connection between improving, enclosing, and surveying as a path to profit. Before the end of 1500s, Fitzherbert’s ‘Boke of Husbandry’ appeared in seventeen editions. The extensive library of Henry, Lord Stafford, for example contained two copies of Fitzherbert’s’Boke’.”. Gary Fields. ‘Enclosure: Palestinian Landscapes in a Historical Mirror.’

Fitzherbert does not deal with husbandry only, but breeding and buying horses, laying hedges, the sale of wood and timber, grafting of trees, training of servants, road repair, vetinary medicine, the occupations of a country wife, duties of a neighbour, and relief of the poor. Although primarily dealing with agriculture and animal husbandry it really is a country gentleman’s vade-mecum – how to manage your estate and profit by it. The missing leaf deals with oxen.

ESTC S122112. STC 10996. Lowndes. Ames III p. 288 1162.


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