THE QUAKER ROBERT BARCLAY’S COPY
CATO, Marcus Porcius, VARRO, Marcus Terentius, COLUMELLA, Junius Moderatus, PALLADIUS, Rutilius Taurus. De re rustica.
Cologne, Johannes Gymnicus, 1536.
8vo. pp. (xxxii) 814 (x). Roman letter. Woodcut printer’s device to t-p, 15 small woodcuts of agricultural instruments or diagrams, decorated initials. T-p a bit dusty, small marginal hole, light marginal stain to some early and final ll., Ii2-3 cleanly torn and repaired, dislocating couple of letters, far lower outer blank corner of Ii5 lost, small scattered worm holes to margins of last two gatherings. A very good copy in contemporary probably Polish (Gdánsk?) calf over wooden boards, two brass clasps, double blind ruled, outer border with Mercury(?) and female half-figures, centre panel with (upper cover) blind-stamped ivy leaf and blind-tooled inscription THESMA / RVSALLE / BEKENPO / MERANV(?) / ANNO / DOMI / NI / 1539, (lower) blind-stamped fleurons and rosettes, raised bands, flaw to upper cover affecting one blind-stamped letter, small worm holes to lower edge of lower cover. C17 bookplate of Robert Barclay of Urie (Scotland), inscriptions ‘John Cox Booke 1661’ and another C17 crossed out to ffep, t-p with C17 inscription ‘Barclay Ury’, C16 ‘Ioann Weisser (?)’ and early casemark, C16 bibliographic inscription and C16 ‘Thesmarus Alebeke Pomeranus’ to rear pastedown. In modern folding box.
This copy belonged to Robert Barclay (1648-90) of Ury, Scotland—a major early member of the Society of Friends. His ‘An Apology for the True Christian Divinity’ (1676), written in light of the anti-Quakers controversies of the 1670s, became the most authoritative defence of their doctrines, and one of the most remarkable theological works of the time. From 1682, and without ever visiting the colony, Barclay was appointed governor of East New Jersey by its twelve buyers, eleven of them Quakers, who purchased the territory after the death of Sir George Cartelet. Among them was his long-term friend William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania in 1681. John Cox, who owned this copy in 1661, is listed in Quaker documents of the 1670s alongside Penn and Barclay (‘Exalted Diotrephes’, 28). He was most probably the John Cox from Gloucestershire who ‘emigrated to America with his wife and three children in 1688. He settled first in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, but removed later to […] New Jersey. […] He was the progenitor of many of the well-known Quaker Cox families of New Jersey and Pennsylvania’ (Cox, ‘Cox Family’, 37).
The handsome binding was produced for the earliest owner, Thesmarus Allebeke (fl. early C16), from Pomerania. In 1545, he was rector of the schools at St John’s and St Mary’s churches in Gdánsk. After returning to Catholicism, he was a priest at Cedry Wielkie, near Gdánsk. He owned a rich library of classical authors, including incunables, which bore similar bindings (‘Katalog Inkunabułów Biblioteki Miejskiej w Gdańsku’, 257).
A very good, handsomely bound copy. This florilegium of agricultural works was devised for a readership interested in the classical rustic virtues of landownership and the practical aspects of country life, with topics as varied as the best place to set up a beehive, horticulture, remedies for dogs with flees and sick horses, ways to scare off snakes stabling and regulations for workers. Marcus Porcius Cato (234-149 BC) was a Roman statesman, military officer and author. His only complete, extant work, ‘De Agri Cultura’ (c.160 BC) is a manual on the management of a country estate reliant on slaves, with a special interest in the cultivation of vines. A prolific writer patronised by Augustus, Marcus Terentius Varro (116-107BC) based his ‘Rerum rusticarum libri tres’ on his direct experience of farming. He notably warns his readers to avoid marshlands, where ‘animalia minuta’ that cannot be seen by the human eye may be breathed in or swallowed and cause illnesses. A soldier and farmer, Lucius Moderatus Columella (4-70AD) is best known for his ‘Res rustica’, which deals with a wealth of activities including the cultivation of vines and olives, the farming and treatment of animals, and the management of workers. Inspired by Columella and much admired in the medieval period, Palladius’s (C4-5AD) ‘Opus agriculturae’ (or ‘De re rustica’) provides an account of the typical monthly activities of a Roman farm, and mentions the utility of building mills over abundant waterways to grind wheat. This edition features commentaries by Georgius Alexandrinus, Philippus Beroaldus and Aldus. Beautifully bound, with fascinating provenance.
Columbia, UCB, NYBG, NLM, Oberlin, Illinois, KU and Rutgers copies recorded in the US.
Graesse VI, 331; BM STC Ger., p.187. An Exalted Diotrephes Reprehended (London, 1681); H.M. Cox, The Cox family in America (New York, 1912).