MEAGER, Leonard.

The Mystery of Husbandry: or, arable, pasture, and wood-land improved. Containing the whole art and mystery of agriculture or husbandry, in bettering and improving all degrees of land, fertilizing…to bear good corn, or become meadow or pasture. Directions for marling, dunging, mudding, sanding, flowing, trenching, and other methods of improving land to the best advantage. Proper times for sowing, chusing good seed, and ploughing; with the description of useful ploughs suitable to the different sorts of ground, &c. How to keep corn, and other pulse, from being destroyed by birds, vermin, lightning, mildew, blasts, smuttiness, cold winds, &c. Harvestwork, inning or stacking, &c. The best granaries for preserving corn and pulse, &c. How to know smutty or washed corn from others. Proper tools for husbandry and day-labour computed…To which is added, The countryman’s almanack.

London: Printed by W. Onley, for Henry Nelme… 1697

12mo, pp. (xii), 161, (7) advertisements, folding engraved frontispiece of various types of plough. Title within double-ruled border. Contemporary mottled sheep, rebacked and endpapers replaced at an early date. Paper a little browned (as in the other copy that I have handled) and spotting on the rear endpapers. Bold signature of Thomas Cotton, 1709, on front fly-leaf.

FIRST EDITION, first issue. Meager’s third book (his first two were on gardening and fruit crops) is principally on methods of improving the soil. It “was considered at the time a work of first-class merit” (McDonald). He supplied what had been omitted by others, much of which had been borrowed from earlier writers. “This was sound logic, and Meager seems to have carried these advanced ideas right through his book in a manner which commands respect for the man and his methods” (ibid). He discusses different types of land and methods of fertilising it, and deals extensively with ploughing and types of plough. He was an advocate for planting all waste land with trees for posterity — merit indeed! This was the only edition. Wing M1573A (M1573 is a reissue with a different imprint for a bookseller in Cornwall). McDonald, Agricultural Writers, includes Meager’s book among the early “examples of excellence” (and not just in the bibliographical list), pp. 148–151. Fussell, The Old English Farming Books, pp. 77–79, describes it as “a useful general work which Donaldson once again estimates highly.” Donaldson (Agricultural Biography, 1854), said of it that “Meager’s book must be reckoned a very considerable advance in the progress of agriculture.”


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