Xenophons treatise of householde. XENOPHON.
Xenophons treatise of householde.

Xenophon’s Work on Farming in Homeric Times, &
the Father of English Husbandry

Xenophons treatise of householde.

Title within woodcut architectural border. Printed throughout in black letter save for the “To the reader” on verso of title. 64 leaves. Small 8vo, 17th-cent. panelled calf (rubbed & a little worn, natural paper flaw to title with no loss of text, blank lower half of colophon leaf cut away without loss). Colophon: “Imprinted at London in Fletestrete, by Thomas Berthelet printer to the kynges most noble grace. An. M.D.xxxii.”

[bound with]:

[FITZHERBERT, John]. The Boke of Husbandry. Title within same woodcut architectural border. Printed in black letter. 6 p.l., 90 leaves. Small 8vo (E4 with a natural paper tear with slight loss of text, faint dampstaining). Colophon: “Imprinted at London in fletestrete in the house of Thomas Berthelet,” [1533?].

A most appealing sammelband of two quite early and rare English agricultural works.

I. First edition of Gentian Hervet’s translation into English of Xenophon’s Oeconomicus, one of the earliest works on economics. Also concerned with household management and agriculture, it remains one of our chief sources for what we know of Greek farming in Homeric times. “Xenophon, who lived in the fifth century BC, was a small farmer. He owned a little estate near Scilla. It was isolated but fertile, and Xenophon lived there twenty years, satisfied with farming and hunting. He was perhaps the first writer to stress the importance of the master’s eye. The tenants ought to be watched whether setting trees, tilling, renewing the ground, sowing, or carrying out the fruit. The master should know the nature of his soil and consider the best methods of work it.”–Fussell, The Classical Tradition in West European Farming, pp. 15-16–(& see pp. 15-19 for a full discussion of the work).

The book is written in the form of a Socratic dialogue. It treats other topics such as the qualities and relationships of men and women, rural versus urban life, Greek slavery, popular religion, and the role of education.

II. Fitzherbert (d. 1531), is considered the father of English husbandry. “The book deals exhaustively with the best principles of arable farming of the time, describes the tools and discusses the capital required, and is moreover a conspectus of the life of a contemporary farmer and his family and servants, many of the methods are fundamentally those which all later generations of farmers must perforce follow.”–Fussell, I, p. 6.

The first edition of Fitzherbert’s The Book of Husbandry was printed by Richard Pynson in 1523. It is an extremely rare book and ESTC locates only the BL copy. There were two equally rare editions published in 1530 by Wynkyn de Worde (just a fragment) and 1530? by Peter Treuerys. Our edition is the first to be published by Berthelet and is very rare.

Several leaves towards end with passages neatly lined through and some early annotations and corrections.

Fine crisp copies. Stubs of a medieval manuscript on vellum at rear. Early, partially erased signatures on free front-endpaper of Henry Hills and John Martin of Harbrough. Bookplate of Colonel & Mrs. Forbes Leith of Whitehaugh.

❧ I. NSTC 26069. II. McDonald, Agricultural Writers, from Sir Walter of Henley to Arthur Young, 1200-1800, pp. 13-23–(offering a full account of the contents of the book). NSTC 10995.5.

Price: $37,500.00

Item ID: 6567

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