PLATT, Sir Hugh

PLATT, Sir Hugh The Jewell House of Art and Nature.

London, Printed by Peter Short, 1594


FIRST EDITION sm. 4to., 3 parts in 1. pp. (xvi) 96, 60, 76. Roman and italic letter, First title within decorative woodcut border, ladies in Elizabethan dress at sides, skeleton beneath (McKerrow and Ferguson 160), two woodcut sub-titles incorporating the royal arms (McKerrow and Ferguson 182), full-page arms of Earl of Essex on verso of t-p (fractionally trimmed at fore-edge), woodcut illustrations of furnaces, agricultural machinery, pumps, presses, devices for distillation and machines of his own invention in text, large historiated woodcut initials, typographical head and tail pieces, C19th autograph on fly, stamp of the ‘Lawes Agricultural Trust’ on pastedown. Light age yellowing, t-p and verso of last fractionally dusty, some minor marginal spotting, the odd mark, small tear at lower blank margin of last two leaves. A good copy in slightly later polished sheep, covers bordered with double blind rule, rebacked, corners restored.

Rare first edition, charmingly illustrated, of this curious and fascinating ‘Book of Secrets’ dedicated to the Earl of Essex, containing an enormous diversity of practical advice on many subjects, a valuable contribution to the art of husbandry, with much material on domestic matters, including preserving fruit, distilling, cookery and cosmetics, by Sir Hugh Platt “the most ingenious husbandman of the age he lived in.” Harte. The work is a compendium of inventions and discoveries ranging from the easier writing of the ABC, to keeping oysters good for ten to twelve days, to “a pistol of two foot in length, to deliver a bullet point blanke at eight skore”. Separate sections are devoted to the improvement of soil and manure, to better distillation, and to the art of gilding, while the final part has commercial hopes, being “an offer of certeine new inuentions, which the Author will bee ready to disclose uppon reasonable considerations, to such as shall be willing to entertain them, or to procure some priviledge for them”.

“The first part lists 103 experiments, ranging from the practical to the fantastic. These include recipes for preserving fruit, flowers, meat, and water, and for a tooth-cleaner; a cheap way to erect a small bridge without the need to place supports in the water; a chafing dish to keep food warm without coals; how to keep garments free from moths; how to dispose of wasps and rats; a cement for mending glasses; and how to know what cards your opponent is holding. The second part deals with soils and manures, the third with distillations, the fourth with moulding and casting metals, and the fifth, entitled ‘An offer of certain new inventions which the author proposes to disclose upon reasonable considerations’, covers a diversity of topics such as the brewing of beer without hops, the preservation of food in hot weather and at sea, mnemonics, and fishing.” ODNB. The second and most focused part of the work, which was reprinted shortly after this first edition in a separate pamphlet, concerns the treatment of soil and fertilizers. “Almost all the theory contained in the work is derived from Continental writers: some material is quoted from Franciscus Valetius’ ‘de sacra Philosophia’, but Plat relies most heavily on the works of Bernard Palissy, a French potter. At the outset, Plat mentions Palissy’s ‘Discours admirables de la nature des eaux et fontaines’ and proceeds to translate almost the whole of his ‘des sels diverses’ followed by more selective extracts from ‘de la Marn.’ Plat quotes with acknowledgement (and apparently with approval), telling us when he does not agree with the original author….. throughout his publishing career Plat put forward ideas to improve military food and drink. The Jewell House of Art and Nature of 1594 contains detailed suggestions on keeping meat in brine and how to preserve water fresh at sea, as well as introducing his ‘New Invention’ of pasta as a victual for the navy.” Malcolm Thick, ‘Sir Hugh Plat, the Search for Useful Knowledge in Early Modern London.’ The work is of particular interest for its detailed recipes on food and drink, wines, spirits and distillations, and is also of tremendous social interest giving much insight into the preoccupation’s of Elizabethan household’s. A good copy of this very rare and fascinating work.

ESTC S110434. STC 19991. Lowndes V 1879. Duveen 476 (1653 edition). Bitting 373 (1653 edition). Fussell p.15. Ferguson II 49. Westwood & Satchell 171. Luborsky & Ingram. Engl. illustrated books, 1536-1603, 19991. Not in Vicaire, Oberle or Simon.

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