Focusing on books from the 16th to 18th centuries, an extraordinary library of antiquarian agricultural books assembled over five decades by a North Yorkshire farmer came for sale at Tennants (22/24% buyer’s premium) on September 30.
The great agricultural writers all appeared in the collection amassed by Martin Henry Burtt of Glaisdale, a well-known figure at auction houses and among the antiquarian book trade. His library covered all the obvious subjects connected with farming and husbandry, such as breeding of livestock, improvements in land use, crops, developments in technology and veterinary practices.
However, the range of works also extended to falconry, brewing, gardening, botany, beekeeping, dogs and even rat-catching.
Bid to £6200, the top lot was one that offered an ex-Royal Veterinary College (and inevitably, institutionally stamped) copy of the 1600, second edition of Leonard Mascall’s Booke of Cattel…, a work that in its first of three parts concentrates on cattle, but in the separately titled second and third parts deals with horses, sheep, pigs, dogs, goats, etc.
Other highlights included, at £2500, a 1635 second edition in a re-backed contemporary binding of Gervase Markham’s The English Husbandman…, a copy bearing the 19th century bookplate of William, Earl Fitzwilliam, which sold at £2500, and a 1676 first in rebacked contemporary calf of John Evelyn’s Philosophical Discourse of Earth relating to …Improvement of it for Vegetation…, which made £750.
A 1658 first of Adolphus Speed’s Adam out of Eden, or… experiments touching the advancement of husbandry, a work whose diverse content includes the discussion of opium traps for deer, realised £1600.
Sold at low-estimate £1500 was a scarce first Irish edition of Jethro Tull’s The New Horse-Houghing Husbandry, or Essay on the Principles of Tillage and Vegetation, published in the same year as the English edition, 1731.
Close friend of Erasmus
“Newely Englished and increased” by Barnabe Googe, a 1577 edition (bound in modern half morocco) of Conrad Heresbach’s Foure Bookes of Husbandry… with the Antiquitie, and Commendation Thereof, took £2400.
Heresbach (1496-1576) served as a counsellor to the Duke of Cleves and was a close friend of Erasmus, the great scholar of the age, but he here he writes informally and through the perspective of an imaginary visitor exploring a countryman’s house, encountering gardens, stables and farmlands.
Gabriel Plattes’ A Discovery of Infinite Treasure, Hidden since the World’s Beginning of 1639 also sold well at £2200, Tennants noting that he was one of the first to explore how systems of husbandry could be improved if one studied the relationships between landlord and tenant.