“Here begynneth a newe blog moost profytable for all husbande men and very frutefull for all other persons to rede”

What are husbandry books?

This is not a husbandry book.

Since antiquity, husbandry books (so-named after the Old English word husbond, a peasant owning his own house and land) have been an invaluable source of information for landowners. The ubiquitous presence of these treatises in medieval miscellanies attests how landowners were actively gathering written information for the benefit of maintaining their estates. What is more, the surge of husbandry books during the onset of the printing era illustrates the growing need for didactic agricultural literature. In my research I analyse the manuscript and print context of these works, and the collections of which they once were part. By locating individual estate managers and the texts they owned, as well as the didactic works circulating within these intellectual environments, I reflect on the significance of husbandry books within medieval society.

Why a husbandry blog?

Front page of Walter of Henley’s Boke of Husbandry, printed by Wynkyn de Worde in 1508 (colours are added by me).

If you have come to look for information to practice medieval farming techniques, this blog is not the right place. Thankfully, having a sheep drink your urine or submerging chickens in an ice bath are things of the past. Even if you are not into medieval literature or agricultural history, husbandry books offer a unique insight in medieval life. But there is still more: some books are riddled with songs and verses, contain wonderful woodcut illustrations, and fascinating ideas about the natural world that still inform the world we inhibit today. While part of this blog focuses on my actual research matter, most of the blog posts feature bite-sized bits of husbandry books that have caught my interest, to show the wealth of information that is contained in these books.

About the blogger

M.N. Kuipers is a PhD candidate who is working on a project under the working title “Medieval Husbandry Books in Manuscript and Print” at the University of Groningen, funded by the Groningen Research Institute for the Study of Culture (ICOG) (2015-2019).