Plate 6 from Nova Reperta
by Johannes Stradanus

Gentlemen's Recreations

The Country-mans recreation illustrates the difficulty of establishing the identity of an early modern book. The general title page announces three "books"—and delivers four, if one counts Barker's Art of Angling, which according to the title page is "likewise added." Three of the components—A Perfect Platform of a Hop-Garden, The Expert Gardener, and the Art of Angling have individual title pages and were separately issued. The last two are independently paginated with their own runs of "signatures" (or gatherings of leaves). But the Perfect Platform shares its signature run and pagination with The Country-mans recreation. According to the title pages, those two also share a printer and publisher, though not the date of publication. The Art of Angling was the first published of Barker's works, and is mentioned in Izaak Walton's Complete Angler (first published for Richard Marriott in 1653). Marriott published an edition of Barker's Art of Angling in 1657. A third publisher, Humphrey Moseley—who was associated with Royalist literature—also published an edition of the Art of Angling in 1659.

In Shears's 1654 edition, the Art of Angling is placed in a larger set of practical treatises for the husbandman, not all of which were actually authored by Thomas Barker. Though the title pages are not elaborated with woodcut illustrations, the works are fully illustrated, including twenty-two pages (or two and one-half signatures) Click Here for a Larger Viewat the end of The Expert Gardener featuring grids and designs for elaborate knot gardens based upon geometrical balance and order. The text is largely devoted to "graffing" or "imping," that is, grafting branches cut from one tree onto others in order to achieve the desired depth and fullness. Trees and shrubs would be planted along precise directional lines and eventually the garden would grow and be trimmed into precise "knot" designs. Barker described eight different grafting techniques. The twelve tools depicted in this woodcut open the sequence as essential for the "expert gardener." In addition to various forms of sickles and blades—necessary for clearing land in preparation of the garden—a mallet for driving stakes into the ground, trowels for digging and weeding, and a long saw are displayed.

In addition to grafting techniques, Barker wrote of fruit yields from apple and pear trees and schedules for planting vegetables. He also devoted a great deal of space to pest control. On this subject, as with others, he appears to have drawn largely from experience; however, he cited a few textual authorities on this matter. Barker noted that Pliny the Elder wrote in his Natural History that unsalted olive oil would keep worms away (p. 26), and that Palladius Rutilius said that dry seeds from tortoise skin would keep out "noisome vermine or creeping things" (pp. 26-7). He cited "Albertus," presumably Albertus Magnus, who wrote that stuffing garlic or leeks down molehills would either kill or drive them away (p. 31). A potential reader of Barker's treatise may not have had the means or desire to plant a knot garden but could have still profited from his treatise.

Bruce Janacek
North Central College

Suggested Reading

Hunt, John Dixon. Garden and Grove: The Italian Renaissance Garden in the English Imagination: 1600-1750. London: J.J. Dent, 1986.

McRrae, Andrew. God Speed the Plough: The Representation of Agrarian England, 1500-1660. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Mukerji, Chandra. Territorial Ambitions and the Gardens of Versailles. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

Strong, Roy. The Renaissance Garden in England. London: Thames and Hudson, 1979.

Thirsk, Joan. The Rural Economy of England. London: Hambledon Press, 1984.