[Early 19th century manuscript diary of an English gardener recording his care of fruit trees and grapes]
Great Britain: 1812-1849. Approx. 60 pages. [Bound into the rear of:] William Forsyth. A Treatise on the Culture and Management of Fruit-Trees; in which a new method of pruning and training is fully described ... The Fourth Edition. London: Printed for Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme, 1806. xxviii, 523pp. 13 engraved plates (11 folding). Contemporary calf, rebacked to style. Provenance: unidentified armorial bookplate on verso of the title, featuring a wolf rampant and the motto Vincit Veritas.
Unusual early 19th century gardening diary of an English fruit grower.
The manuscript records the efforts of a knowledgable gardener. Although unidentified, a Liverpool stationeer's blindstamp in the rear and a reference to a Kirkdale gardener, suggests a gardener from a Lancashire estate. The manuscript begins with an entry dated 21 Aug. 1812, in which the diarist records his efforts to save a damaged peach tree: "Finding a young tree which had been planted about four years from a two year old plant, very much decayed apparently from rain having got into the grafting which had rotted nearly the whole upper part of the stock, I tried the following method of cure. I cut away all the rotten part about nine inches in length ... plentifully with tar and covered the mixture of cow dung and marl." He updates the entry several times recording prunings to the tree and notes in 1814 that "the tree have two peaches this year ... the covering wound was become loose ... the tree otherwise healthy." A 15 July 1813 entry records a visit to Mr. Farrer of Kirkdale "for the purpose of enquiring into the mode I had been informed he had adopted of destroying the Coceus or American Buglas [in apple trees] ... he showed me a tree on which the experiment had been made last spring." He describes the method of using mercury in detail and refers to the experiments of Hales. Other entries record his planting, pruning and grafting of vines, as well as nectarines and apricots and recipes for destroying worms, caterpillars, slugs and other pests. The manuscript further transcribes extracts concerning the care of fruit trees from the Horticultural Society Transactions and other sources. Many of the later entries concern the hothouse cultivation of grapes; for example a 28 November 1848 inscription: "The hothouse has not had any artificial heat during this year. We cut 14 lbs of excellent grapes..." This manuscript is bound into the rear of a copy of Forsyth's Treatise. The Treatise "ran through seven editions in twenty-two years, the first three in only two years, and two American adaptions of it were also published ... Some readers thought the book greatly indebted to Thomas Hitt's Treatise of Fruit-Trees, first published in 1755, but E.A. Bunyard... explains the lack of originality of 'the voluble Forsyth' by saying that 'the details of the culture had been well thrashed out by previous authors, and little room for innovations was left" (Oak Spring Pomona p.101). "William Forsyth was one of that legion of Scottish gardeners who spent their working lives south of the border. His career began at Chelsea Physic Garden and continued at Syon House, until he returned to Chelsea in 1771 to take over the care of the garden from Philip Miller... In 1774 Forsyth constructed one of the earliest rock gardens ... Ten years later he took charge of the royal gardens at St James's and Kensington. His eminence in the gardening world made him one of the founder members of the Royal Horticultural Society" (op. cit.)
For Forsyth: Bradley Bibiliography III, p.141; Pritzel 2985; cf. Raphael Oak Spring Pomona 37.