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BUTLER, Charles

The Feminine Monarchie.

Oxford, Joseph Barnes, 1609.

£19,500

FIRST EDITION, 8vo. 90 unnumbered ll. a, b, A-N, O. Roman letter, some Italic. Small woodcut printer’s device on t-p, floriated woodcut initials, typographical head and tail-pieces, woodcut music and diagrams in text, book plate of James Elwin Millard (1824 – 1894) on pastedown, his blind-stamp with monogram on t-p. Light age yellowing, t-p a little dusty at fore-edge, very minor marginal spotting in places, the occasional mark or stain, small tear to lower outer corner of F2 affecting side note on recto. A very good copy, crisp and clean in C19 dark olive morocco, covers bordered with a double gilt-rule, spine with raised bands gilt-ruled in compartments, gilt acorn fleuron at centres, a.e.r., fractionally rubbed at extremities.

Rare and important first edition of the first full-length, practical English treatise on Beekeeping. Known as the Father of English Beekeeping, Butler addresses in his preface the great classical tradition that relies upon “the Muses birds” as models of religion, government and labor, “worthily to bee most admired”, but notes that Philosophers “in al their writings they seeme vnto me to say little out of experience”. Butler’s treatise is the first to argue that worker bees were female, not male, and the first to popularise the idea in England that the hive is lead not by a king but a queen bee. Not only do these points ground Butler’s practical treatise firmly in methods of entymological observation that would be refined by the end of the century in books such as Robert Hooke’s Micrographia (1665), but they also relate directly contemporary political debates that made use of bee hierarchy as a model for government.

The book identifies the habits of bees, the importance of hierarchy, the tools necessary in breeding them (“for the behoofe of men”), their enemies, and the months during which to care for and harvest the hives. It also provides in great detail an account of swarming and its prevention, even to the extent that Butler includes scored music that replicates the sound “Bee-masters” can expect to hear in their hive before swarming (“the Queene in a deeper voice”). In the aftermath of a swarm, Butler also offers chapters for each of the places the bees might go, from “upon a high bough” to “into a hollow tree”, and their recovery.

Butler also wrote an important treatise on musical theory and includes in this work a remarkable section in which he attempts to transcribe the sound of the Queen bee in musical notation. “Charles Butler was a highly original scholar whose books included a treatise on bees entitled ‘The feminine monarchie’, … In this work Butler attempted to transcribe into musical notation the ‘piping’ and ‘quacking’ sounds produced by rival queens within a hive. Quacking is the responsive sound of rival queens who have not yet emerged from their cells, and piping is the regal identification of a virgin queen soon after she has emerged from the cell in which she developed. The 1609 edition shows a four line staff with the letter G on the second line from the bottom indicating that this is a treble clef. There are no bar lines but the two semibreve rests at the beginning of the staves indicate that we are in a triple metre, and indeed the text states that the bees ‘sing’ in triple time. The notation indicates that the two most common results of the simultaneous piping and quacking of the rival queens are the musical intervals of either a perfect fifth or a major third.” The Moir collection.

A rare book, especially in good condition.

ESTC S107149. STC 4192, Lowndes I 333. Madan 73.1 “the first music printed at Oxford”.

L3304