The commons complaint. Wherein is contained tvvo speciall grieuances…

London, Printed by William Stansby, 1611


4to. pp. [x], 34. A-E⁴ F². Roman letter, some Italic. folding woodcut, ‘The Figure of the Plot’ a fowl-house, and large folding woodcut imprimatur leaf with woodcut of the Royal arms at head and large woodcut initial. Woodcut and typographical head-pieces and ornaments, floriated woodcut initials, C18th engraved armorial bookplate on verso of title of John, Earl of Bute. Light age yellowing, some light water-staining, t-p a little dust soiled at head, cut close at head, very occasionally just touching headline. A good copy in modern three-quarter speckled calf over marbled boards.

Very rare second edition of this important work, a rare variant published with a folding imprimatur leaf, not found in the British Library. “Arthur Standish reflected the general concern at the increasing shortage of timber in The Commons Complaint which contained two special grievances, as noted in the subtitles: ‘the first, general destruction and waste of woods in this Kingdom with a remedy for the same: also how to plant wood according to the nature of every soile’ The second concerned ‘the extreme dearth of victuals’ and was to be remedied by planting fruit trees, breeding more poultry, and destroying vermin.” Peter McDonald, J. P. Lassoie. ‘The Literature of Forestry and Agroforestry.’

“Church’s contemporary was Arthur Standish, about whom we know next to nothing. He may have been involved in some way in the Crown surveys, given that in 1611 he wrote that he had been traversing the country investigating the themes on which he would publish for the previous four years. In a series of texts (or more correctly, one gradually expanded text), Standish provided a schema for enhancing the national wood yields such that ‘the whole Kingdom hereby may be preserved from the ruine that is greatly feared.’ His Work differed from Church’s in that it provided rather less detail on arboriculture, but a rather grander scheme for increasing output that would benefit the entire economy, freeing up land and resources for alternative uses, and through which the careful setting of pollards and hedgerows could eliminate the need for coppice-woods altogether. Standish claimed some Royal encouragement and won a laudatory preface from poet and engraver Henry Peacham; but his plans, like so many projects of the time, soon lapsed into obscurity. What however marks out Church and Standish is their intent: they did not speak of ‘improvement’ but ‘profit’, but the core of their argument was directed towards the increase of output through better practice. Increased revenue was thus incidental to countering the scarcity of an essential resource. Standish was one of the first to differentiate himself from a slow drip of handbooks for very specific crafts, such as beekeeping, tree-grafting or seed-setting, by projecting a grander project of national renewal.” Richard W. Hoyl ‘Custom, Improvement and the Landscape in Early Modern Britain’.

John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute (1713 – 1792), styled Lord Mount Stuart before 1723, was a Scottish nobleman who served as Prime Minister of Great Britain (1762–1763) under George III, and was arguably the last important ‘favourite’ in British politics. a very rare and important work with appropriate provenance.

STC 23201. ESTC S110882. Fussell p.33; Goldsmiths’ 401; Henrey 351.


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CRESCENZI, Pietro de


Opera di Agricultura. Ne la quale si contiene a che modo si debbe coltivar la terra, la proprieta’ de tutti e frutti, & herbe; la natura de tutti gli animali.

Venice, Bernardino de Viano de Lexona vercellese, for Melchior Sessa, 1536.


8vo. 392 unnumbered ll., A-Z8 2A-2Z8 3A-3B8 +8 (3B8 blank). Roman letter, naturalistic and foliated woodcut initials on five and six lines, some white-on-black smaller, title within beautiful woodcut border, grotesque foliage interlaced with hybrid animals, cat with mouse on upper margin (Sessa’s device), two dragons at base, at A3 verso ‘accipies’ woodcut within floriated and geometrical border, depicting the author teaching students writing; some underlining in contemporary brown ink, text occasionally crossed-out with pencil. Some foxing to edges, mostly on initial and final quires, erased stamp on first two leaves, a good, fresh copy in contemporary vellum, manuscript title in gothic letter on spine, early manuscript notes on turn ins.

Good copy of the Italian translation of the ‘Opus Ruralium Commodum’ by Pietro de’ Crescenzi, one of the most influential mediaeval treatises in agronomy and agriculture. Translated into many languages, the work was widespread in manuscript from the beginning of the 14th century and in printed editions since 1471. The author, born in Bologna around 1233, was trained both in the Dominican schools and Bologna University, gaining extensive knowledge in logic, medicine, natural sciences and law. His career focused on this last field, and after being appointed ‘iudex’ (judge) he received assignments that took him all over Italy for more than thirty years.

During his travels Crescenzi had the chance to visit a great number of rural villas and farms, developing a passion for agronomy and farming. Once retired, he dedicated himself to the project of writing an agronomical treatise in which to convey knowledge and techniques, ancient and modern, theoretical and practical; his efforts gave birth to the ‘Ruralium Commodum’. In his treatise the author often refers to classical and mediaeval authorities, such as Palladio, Varro, Albertus Magnus, Avicenna and the ‘Geoponika’, but he does not hesitate to confute their thesis, adding extensive considerations based upon the practical experience of the many farmers he had known. An interesting aspect of the essay is the public it was conceived for, the 14th century bourgeoisie, especially the class of jurists and notaries who had invested in farms and lands, and needed to obtain a good yield.

The work, divided into twelve books, provides a well-structured analysis of all the aspects of running a farm: having identified all the requirements that a good farm must satisfy to be chosen, it enumerates the different kinds of plants and how to cultivate them. The third book is devoted to fields and their produce, while the fourth, examining in depth the cultivation of vine and the practice of wine-making, constitutes an excellent source for the history of mediaeval enology. Chapters from six to nine analyse trees and fruits, herbs, woods and gardens, at chapter nine starts a dissertation upon animals, husbandry and veterinary, followed by a chapter devoted to hunting and falconry. The practical, original approach of the treatise is demonstrated by the last two chapters, which after summarizing the contents, reorder them according to the monthly and seasonal farming calendar.

A wonderful practical treatise, of great interest for the development of agriculture, enology and farming practice.

Sander 2240. BM STC It. 16 C, p. 203. Adams C, 2931. Dizionario biografico degli italiani, vol. 30, Roma, Istituto dell’Enciclopedia Italiana, 1984. Simon Bibl. Bac. p.35 “Traité des plus intéressants sur l’art de cultiver la vigne et de faire le vin… le livre IV est entièrement consacré à la vigne et au vin.” Biting p. 105 (1564 edn) “The fourth book is devoted to the vine and wines.”


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VAUGHAN, Rowland

Most Approved and Long experienced Water-Workes.

London, George Eld., 1610.


FIRST EDITION 4to. ff. [70] (A2, B-S4), (one recorded copy has a folding plate). Roman and Italic letter, side-notes, head- and tail-pieces, woodcut initials. T.p. and last a little dusty and slightly foxed, minor wormhole and dampstain to upper and lower corners of first 30 ll. light age browning, with occasional oil splashes and light water stain to final gatherings, generally good and well-margined copy C19 English calf gilt, some wear to joints, Modern bookplate on front pastedown, a.e.g.

FIRST AND ONLY EDITION of the FIRST ENGLISH WORK ON CROP IRRIGATION, prefaced by ten entertaining poems in honour of the author comprising the first 22 pp. of the volume, written by i.a. the lawyer and MP Thomas Rant, a “John Strangwage”, and Robert Corbet thought to be Richard Corbet, bishop of Oxford and Norwich famed for very merrily locking himself in his own wine-cellar. The first and longest “Panegyricke” compares Vaughan to King David, King Arthur, and places him among the pantheon of pagan gods. It was written by the “very voluminous and somewhat tedious” (DNB) John Davies of Hereford, poet and writing-master who taught many pupils from noble families and courted the patronage of Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke, her brother the Earl, Robert Sidney, and Lucy, Countess of Bedford. Davies was best known for his “Scourge of Folly”, a collection of epigrams satirising popular writers of the day including Shakespeare, Jonson, and Nashe. Also included is a poem by Davies’ son, Sylvanus.

The author’s introduction to the Earl of Pembroke takes up almost half of the volume. Before describing the workings of his system, Vaughan’s introduction presents a vision for a better society, centered on his successful waterworks: where one “famous preacher shall be maintaind”, one master will command each industry with as many apprentices as he needs,  and a very large dinner table will be stocked with a never-ending feast for all. Vaughan’s aim is to invigorate the local economy and put some 500 of his neighbours back to work by using the profits from his surplus crops, and the crops themselves, to create jobs for farmers, millers, brewers, bakers, scythe and sickle-makers, mechanics, shepherds, swineherds, butchers, wool-makers and dyers – his reckoning in total includes no less than (“hold breath” he writes as the list escalates) 42 occupations to choose from.

In “The Manner of My Drownings” Vaughan describes first how he once noticed the greener grass on the one side of his property, well-watered because it was below a molehill that channeled rainwater its way, and then how he spent 20 years perfecting a method of irrigation from the observation. He instructs as to the the season and length of time to “drowne the Grounds”, the type of trenches to be dug depending on the terrain, and other useful advice, including how to keep moles out of the waterworks. Perhaps connecting the practical advice with his ideal society, the work concludes with a promissory note  – “Be it knowne vnto all men by these presents, that I Rowland Vaughan of New-court in the County of Hereford Esquire, do acknowledge my selfe to owe and stand duly indebted vnto…” – with blank space for the name, location, and sum of money given. Although there is no specific mention in the introduction,  Vaughan does spend several pages asking the Earl of Pembroke and other local aristocracy for money, arguing against the immorality of usury and interest rates.

STC 24603, only copies at the Folger and Library of Congress include promissory note. Lowndes VII p. 2757 “folding print generally wanting”. Goldsmith’s Library 394 (lacking plate). All 4 copies in the BL lack the plate, the only recorded copy with it is the Huntington. Not in Kress.


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