First English Work on Agricultural Irrigation &
a Utopia of Full Employment
The Gough – Heber Copy
Most Approved, and Long experienced Water-Workes. Containing, the manner of Winter and Summer-drowning of Medow and Pasture, by the advantage of the least, River, Brooke, Fount, or Water-prill adjacent; there-by to make those grounds (especially if they be drye) more Fertile Ten for One. As also a demonstration of a Proiect, for the great benefit of the Common-wealth generally, but of Hereford-shire especially…
Large (445 x 330 mm.) folding hand-colored engraved plan (lacking the second engraved plate). Text within ruled borders.  leaves (lacking the first leaf, a blank; small blank portion of title torn away from lower inner margin). Small 4to, 18th-cent. calf (joints cracked but strong), spine gilt, red morocco lettering piece on spine. London: G. Eld, 1610.
First edition of the first English work on agricultural irrigation and an important early work in the literature of utopias. This is a very rare book, with or without the two plates. Our copy has the important and large folding engraved plan depicting Vaughan’s idealized community, colored by a contemporary hand, divided into 16 panels and mounted on canvas. The engraved plates were intended to be removed and employed for practical use (see N4v) and therefore are almost always lacking.
Rowland Vaughan (fl. 1610), “a Herefordshire man, who served first at Court under Queen Elizabeth and then in the Irish wars, after which he retired to his father’s home in Herefordshire, recommends constructing water meadows…The idea of water meadows was original to Vaughan, although it is possible that they were known and used in other parts of the country. He saw ‘a spring breaking out of a mole-hill with the grass very green where it ran’, and that gave him the idea that a definite set of drains with sluices to cause and control flooding would be good for grassland. He embodied these ideas in [the present work]. The book also contains one of the earliest references to a mechanical saw-mill…It was dedicated to the Earl of Pembroke.”–Fussell, I, pp. 32-33.
Over a twenty-year period, Vaughan constructed a three-mile artificial channel leading to his fields, where trenches and gutters had been dug. Flooding was controlled by a sluice gate at the bottom of his property; when closed, the fields would be flooded at Vaughan’s will, and when opened, the fields would drain. Flooding took place in winter; the water spread nutritious sediment over the grass and protected it from frost. Vaughan estimated that his land increased seven or eight times in value.
This work also plays a notable and early role in the literature of utopias. “First in time, if not in importance, of our selected full-employment utopias must come the unlikely tract by Rowland Vaughan, Most Approved and Long Experienced Waterworks (1610)…it is his community scheme, usually passed over in silence, with which Vaughan is most concerned. In his prefatory address to the Earl of Pembroke [which takes up about half of the book], he claims that his system of flooding or floating meadows is already a success. What he is appealing for in this pamphlet is support for his ‘mechanical undertakings,’ central to his vision of an ideal society…
“After settling in Herefordshire [Vaughan] had spent many years in experiments with drainage and irrigation projects. By 1601 he seems to have an irrigation scheme working to his satisfaction, and he then began to turn his attention to the wider social problems of the area in which he lived…Vaughan’s drainage scheme alone, he claimed, could profit the kingdom by two million pounds per annum…The rest of the problem, as Vaughan saw it, lay in the organization, or perhaps disorganisation, of rural life. There were , in his estimation, five hundred households within a one-and-a-half mile radius of his house, ‘whose greatest meanes consist in spinning Flax, Hempe, and Hurdes.’ They were underemployed and lived dangerously close to subsistence, forced frequently into beggary…
“This vicious cycle of indigence Vaughan sought to break by the setting up of a fully employed, self-sufficient community…The community represented a careful attempt to balance agricultural and manufacturing activities in such a way as to maximise the utilisation of the resources of members’ skill and effort.”–J.C. Davis, Utopia and the Ideal Society: A Study of English Utopian Writing 1516-1700 (Cambridge University Press: 1981), pp. 308-13.
Our large folding finely hand-colored plate, with several tears neatly repaired, depicts Vaughan’s ideal community: the property, bordered on two sides by a river and a stream with watermills, has a main house for dining and lodging, attached smaller buildings for “the bottery,” “the pantry,” “the larder,” “the millhowse,” and “the kitchen.” Other buildings include the slaughterhouse, the brewery, and, by far the largest, “tenements for Artifycers,” built for the artisans and craftsmen of the community. The second engraved plate, not present in this copy, depicts irrigation channels.
The last copy we can trace with both plates was the Earl of Fitzwilliam – C.E. Kenney copy, sold Sotheby’s London, 26 March 1968, lot 3829. In that copy, the plates, which were not colored, were mounted and one was slightly defective. Charles Traylen offered that copy in his Catalogue 72 (Feb. 1970) for the then-enormous sum of £600. Even the Macclesfield copy lacked both plates. The Bridgewater – Huntington copy seems to be the only other example with both plates (they are both similarly hand-colored). Most surviving copies have no plates (for example, all four copies at the British Library lack both plates).
The commendatory verse at the beginning of Vaughan’s book is remarkable too: there are no fewer than eleven poems (plus two more at the end), including the 290-line “Panegyricke, in the deserved honour of this most profitable worke,” by John Davies of Hereford, who signs himself “your poore kinsman.”
Fine copy, with the inscription of Richard Heber on the free front endpaper: “Extremely scarce with the map on canvas. Gough, Sale 1810, 2-15-0.” From the libraries of Richard Gough (sold 5 April 1810, & 19 following days, lot 3828, “with the map on canvas”) and Richard Heber (fourth part of his sale, 8 December 1834, lot 2837, “with the large folding plate, which is very rare”). With a slightly later pencilled note “purchased at Heber Sale by Evans.” In the printed Heber catalogue, the compiler suggests this copy belonged to James Bindley (fourth part of his sale, 2 August 1820, & following days, lot 836, sold to Evans for “7.2.6,” one of the higher prices in the sale). But the cataloguing of the Bindley sale was so inadequate it is impossible to know.
❧ NSTC 24603–(issue with promissory note dated 29 November 1609 on S4v). With thanks to Steve Tabor for information regarding the Bridgewater copy at the Huntington.
Item ID: 6552