A Bibliographical Time Capsule from the Highlands


(Edinburgh: Printed for, and sold by the author, and by John Bell, Parliament-Square, 1785). 215 x 127mm. (8 1/2 x 5"). xx, 412 pp. FIRST EDITION.

Contemporary sprinkled calf, cover with gilt catkin border, raised bands, spine panels with graceful floral sprig, red morocco label. With three engraved plates showing farm plans or machinery, one of these folding. Fussell, "More Old English Farming Books, 1731 to 1793," p. 127; ESTC T78088. See Holmes, Heather. "The Circulation of Scottish Agricultural Books during the 18th Century," in Agricultural History Review 54, I, pp. 45-78 (2006). ◆Shallow scratches in the leather, but AN IMMACULATE AND ESPECIALLY LUSTROUS COPY.

This work setting forth a new, practical system for Scottish agriculture is offered here in preternaturally fine condition. The earliest 18th century works on Scottish agriculture focused on particular crops, implements, or varieties of livestock; these were followed by explanations of the scientific aspects of agriculture, based on recent studies. Books like the present one sought to synthesize the knowledge from the first two genres into agricultural systems that could be implemented by landowners. Until the last quarter of the 18th century, Holmes notes, "few books were specifically written for the Scottish agriculturist," and books written for English farmers were of little use, due to notable differences in soil and climate. Young recommends best practices for everything from increasing produce to producing manures, and addresses the problems of rents, prices, and the toll taken on farming by emigration. The book also offers a plan to increase grain and cattle production enough to make up for the loss of the Colonies as a result of the American Revolution. The place and date of publication and the freakishly fine condition make a strong argument that, despite the absence of a bookplate, this volume must have been part of the library of Sir James Colquhoun of Luss (1741-1805), a friend and correspondent of Horace Walpole, and a connoisseur of paintings as well as a bibliophile. He formed a library of mostly 18th century imprints that remained undisturbed--in what must have been ideal conditions (apparently in darkened bookshelves behind curtains)--at the family estate for nearly 200 years before it came on the market in the 1980s. Almost always bound in simply decorated calf, as here, Colquhoun copies are famous for their near-mint condition.

Price: $2,900.00