With the advent of printing, books were soon flooding the market. Previously the prerogative of the very rich, it now became possible for people of the ‘middling sort’ to own books. In another broadening of accessibility, writing in English became more common than in Latin.
As in all ages, manuals quickly became popular – cookery books, herbals, books of etiquette and from the mid-sixteenth century, books on gardening and husbandry. This particular volume, by Leonard Mascall (d. 1589) was first published in 1569, although this edition dates from the 1590s. It deals with the planting and grafting of trees, particularly fruit trees. To have a productive orchard was not just a symbol of wealth and gentility, but also a practical requirement when most food was home-grown.
Mascall himself was from Kent, and was Clerk to the Kitchen to Matthew Parker, Elizabeth I’s first Archbishop of Canterbury. He thus had the opportunity to practice his various skills in a setting which enabled him to learn from experts, and in fact, he wrote books on several topics, many of which, like this, were at least partially translations. The basis for this volume was a French book by the Abbe of St Vincent.
This edition, bound in brown calf-leather, is currently in the Royal Collection.