A part-time manager of an Oxfam charity bookshop in Aberystwyth got a shock recently when she opened a box that had been dropped off at the store – a stash of old agricultural books.
For Cathryn Brown, who’s passionate about antiquarian books and also helps her partner on mid Wales a sheep farm, it represented “a happy combination, serendipitously overlapping”.
First in the haul was the grandly titled Practical Agriculture or A Complete System of Modern Husbandry with the Methods of Planting and the Management of Livestock by RW Dickson. The two volumes, dated 1805, would have “once been essential in any gentleman farmer’s library,” according to Ms Brown. “They’re full of lovely plates, many coloured.”
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Also in the donation was The Book of the Farm by Henry Stephens. In three volumes with numerous illustrations, this one concentrates on “detailing the labours of the farmer, farm steward, ploughman, shepherd, hedger, cattleman, field worker and dairy maid”. The early chapters have sage advice on “the kind of education best suited to young farmers” and “a few words to young farmers who intend emigrating as agricultural settlers to the colonies”.
There was also The Complete Grazier and Farmer’s and Cattle Breeder’s Assistant: A Compendium of Husbandry by William Youatt.
A 10th edition, again with some lovely plates, this is full of advice. “I particularly like the chapter on “Impediments to the scythe and the eradication of weeds,” says Ms Brown.
Book dealers have made offers, but Ms Brown would like to get the full prices to “help Oxfam towards achieving its aim of alleviating poverty and injustice in the world”.
The first two sets are priced at £200 apiece, the third book is £30.
For more information, email Oxfam Music and Books on firstname.lastname@example.org