Samuel Hartlib, his legacy of husbandry

Samuel Hartlib





Wherein are bequeathed to the Commonwealth of ENGLAND, not onely Braband, and Flanders, but also many more Outlandish and Domestick Experiments and Secrets (of Gabriel Plats and others) never heretofore divulged in reference to Universal Husbandry.

With a Table shewing the general Contents or Sections of the several Augmentations and enriching En- largements in this Third Edition.

‘Psal. 144. v. 13, 14 15.That our Garners may be full, affording all manner of store, that our sheep may bring forth thousands, and ten thousands in our streets.’

That our Oxen may be strong to labour, that there be no complaining in our streets.’

Happy is that people that is in such a case; yea happy is that people whose God is the Lord.’

London, Printed by J. M. for Richard Wodnothe, in Leadenhall Street next to the GoldenHart. 1655.


1. AN INTRODUCTION TO THE LEGACY of HUSBANDRY Extracted out of the Surveyors Dialogue, page 223.

HE that will have profit must use the Means, they must not sit, and give aim, and wish, and repine at other increase: There must be Observation to mark how others thrive, Inclination and Imitation to do the like by endeavour and charge; and if one Experiment fail, try a second, a third, and many: Look into Places and persons, note the Qualities of the Lands of other men, and compare it with your own, and where there is a resemblance; mark what the best Husband doth upon his land, like unto thine, if it prosper, practise it, and follow the example of him that is commonly reputed a thrifty understanding Husbandman. And by this means will Experience grow, and of one Principle of Reason, many Conclusions will proceed.

And again.

We have indeed a kind of plodding and common course of Husbandry, and a kind of peevish imitation of the most, who (as Wise men note) are the worst Husbands, who only try what the earth will do of its self, and seek not to help it with such means as Nature hath provided, whereas if men were careful and industrious, they should find that the Earth would yeeld in recompence for a good Husbands travail and charge centuplum, without corrupt Usury an hundred for one.

2. To his worthy and very much Honoured Friend, the Author of the large Letter of Husbandry.


YOu may perceive by these Additionals to your large Letter, which you wrote to gratifie my desires, that the Publique hath been benefited by your Communications, which was all that I intended, by setting you upon that worke: nor will you repent of the paines I hope which you have taken this way. For you see that your Open-hartedness in this kind hath provoked another Friend of mine of very publique desert in the Commonwealth of Learning, to impart unto me his Observations of the same nature. And although his Annotations now and then, are Animadversions rather then Enlargements, yet it is not unprofitable to the Publique, nor disadvantageous to us; that our errours and mistakes (for who can pretend to be without them:) be laid open and rectified. I suppose you would be as loath as I, that any by your meanes or mine, should be led into a by-way, and instead of gaining become a loser, in making triall of what we offer for his advantage.

I could wish that my worthy Friend who hath imparted these his thoughts unto me in the following extemporary Letters, had spared some expressions; & bin less censorious against the Persons of some, of whom others have a high and honorable opinion, as Helmont & Glauber: but he is to be born with all in this, as we would be borne with all by him and others; in the freedome which we might take of giving our opinions concerning his failings. Also I am confident, that that learned Gentleman is not interessed by any prejudice of passion, or personall disaffection against any of them; but that as a man of a free spirit he doth give his judgement through his zeal and love to every truth as it lies in his apprehension; let every one have his freedome in things which are well meant for the Publike; and the best way to rectifie one anothers mistakes, will be to strive to set each other a Copy, of better and more moderate expressions in the like Cases, wherein there may be a mistake or failing: If we were skilfull to provoke one another, onely to the affections of love and of good workes; and by our own usefull experiments discreetly dispensed towards the Publique, could draw forth the profitable (but buried) skill of others, unto common use to be imparted unto all; what could not be done for ease of the poor, and the relief of common calamities? Truly, although neither God by his directions how to make use of all his gifts; nor Nature his handmaid by her supplies of things necessary and comfortable for our livelihood are wanting to us. Yet we by the untowardnesse of our spirits, and the shutting up of our bowels, and the enviousnesse of our dispositions, bring a scarcity upon our selves, and upon others, whil'st we are not faithfull and liberall stewards of our talents, for the benefit of those, for whose sake God hath bestowed them upon us: therefore I shall desire you, as you have begun, to continue in well doing, for you know the promise, that in due time you shall reap the fruit of all your labours, if you faint not.

And least you should imagine, that you are at this distance forgotten by us, give me leave to present you with another taske proper for your thoughts in the place where now you are, that the advantages of Nature, which God hath bestowed upon Ireland, may not lie undiscovered, and without improvement, at this season wherein the Replanting of the wast and desolate places of that Countrey, is seriously laid to heart by many: I shall therefore desire you to look upon this Alphabet of Interrogatories, and consider what Answers your Observations will afford unto them; or what you can learne from the Observations of others to clear them; and as you have opportunity, do, as my Friend from Paris hath done; furnish me with what Gods providence shall send unto your hands, that as I have begun, I may put it out to use: and requite you more plentifully, as I hope I shall be able to do, with the increase, which it shall yield, by this way of Trading, which I have taken up freely to bestow my paines and cost upon others, that all may see the goodness of God in the works of his hands, and have cause to be thankfull unto him for the same, and that so many eminent talents which God hath put into your hands, may not (seeing he hath given you a heart to use them) lye idle for want of Objects, and sit Commodities wherewithall to be trading with him, who subscribes himself always,


Your very much obliged and assured friend to serve you,

Samuel Hartlib.

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3. A large Letter concerning the Defects and Remedies of English Husbandry, written to Mr. Samuel Hartlib.


According to your desires, I have sent you what I have observed in France, about the sowing of a Seed called commonly, Saint Foine, which in English is as much to say as Holy-Hay, by reason, as I suppose, of the excellency of it. It's called by Parkinson in his Herball, where you may see a perfect description of it, Cnobrychis Vulgaris, or Cocks head; because of its flower, or Medick Fetchling: By some it is called Polygala; because it causeth cattel to give abundance of milk. The plant most like unto it, and commonly known, being frequentlysown in Gardens, is that which is called French Honeysuckle, and is a kind of it, though not the same.

France although it be supposed, to want the fewest things of any Province in Europe: yet it hath no small want of Hay, especially about Paris; which hath necessitated them to sowe their dry and barren lands with this seed. Their manner of sowing it, is done most commonly thus: When they intend to let their Cornlands lye, because they be out of heart, and not scituate in a place convenient for manuring, then they sowe that land withOats, and these Seeds together about equal parts: the first year they onely mowe off their Oats, leaving the Saint Foine to take root and strength that year: Yet they may if they please, when the year is seasonable, mowe it the same year it is sown, but it's not the best way to do so: the year following they mowe it, and so do seven years together; the ordinary burthen is about a load, or a load and a half in good years, upon anArpent, (which is 100 square Poles or Rods, [Page 2]every Pole or Rod being 20 foot) wuich quantity of ground being nigh a 4th part less then an English Acre; within a league of Paris, is usually Rented at 6 or 7 s. After the land hath rested 7 years; then they usually break it up, and sowe it with corn till it be out of heart, and then sowe it withSaint Foine as formerly: for it doth not impoverish land, as Annual Plants do; but after seven years, the roots of this plant being great and sweet, as the roots of locorish, do rot, being turned up by the Plough, and enrich the land. I have seen it sown in divers places here in England especially in Cobham Park in Kent, about 4 miles from Gravesend; where it hath thriven extraordinary well upon dry Chalky Banks, where nothing else would grow: and indeed such dry barren land is most proper for it (as moist rich land for the great Trefoile) or great Clover-Grass (although it will grow indifferently well on all lands) and when the other Grasses and Plants are destroyed by the parching heat of the Sun; because their roots are small and shallow; this flourisheth very much, having a very great root, and deep in the ground, and therefore not easily to be exsiccated; As we have observed Ononis or Rest-Harrow commonly to do on dry lands; but if you sowe this on wet land, the water soon corrupts the root of it. This Plant without question would much improve many of our barren lands, so that they might be mowen every year once, at least seven years together, and yield excellent fodder for cattel, if so be that it be rightly managed: otherwise it cometh to nothing, as I have seen by experience. I therefore councel those who sowe this, or the great Trefoile, or Clover-Grass, or any other sort of grasses, that they observe these Rules.

1. That they do make their ground fine, and kill all sorts of other grasses and plants; otherwise they being Native English will by no means give way to the French ones; especially in this moist climate: and therefore they are to be blamed, who with one ploughing sowe this or other seeds; for the grass presently groweth up and choaketh them, and so their negligence, and ill Husbandry discourageth themselves and others.

2. Let them not be too sparing of their seeds; for the more they sowe, the closer and thicker they will grow, and presently fully stock the ground, that nothing else can grow [...] And further the seeds which come from beyond the Seas, are oftentimes old, and much decayed, and therefore the more seed is required.

3. Not to expect above 7 years profit by it; for in that time it will decay, and the naturall grass will prevail over it; for every plant hath its period: some in one year, some in 2. As Would, Cole, Rape, Wade, &c. Others in 3. as the common Thistle, &c. and therefore after 7 years let them either plough the Land up, and sowe it with that same seed again, or with other Grain as they do inFrance.

4. Let not sheep or other cattel bite them the first year, that they may be well rooted; for these grasses are far sweeter then the ordinary grasses; and cattel will eat them down, leaving the other; and consequently discourage their growth.

5. The best way, if men will be at the charge, is to make their ground very fine, as they do when they are to sowe Barley, and harrow it even, and then to howe these seeds in alone without any other grain, as the Gardiners do Pease; yet not at so great a distance; but let them make the ranges about a foots breadth one from another, and they shall see their grasses flourish as if they were green Pease, especially if they draw the howe through them once or twice that summer to destroy all the weeds and grasses: And if they do thus, the great Clover and other seeds may be mowen even twice the first year, as I have experimented in divers small plots of ground.

There is at Paris likewise another sort of fodder, which they call La Lucern, which is not inferior, but rather preferred before this Saint Foine, for dry & barren grounds; which hath bin lately brought thither, and is managed as the former; and truly every day produceth some new things, not only in other Countreys, but also in our own. And though I cannot but very much commend these plants unto my Countrymen, knowing that they may be beneficial to thisNation; yet I especially recommend unto them a famous kind of grass growing in Wiltshire, 9 miles from Salisbury, at Maddington, which may better be called one of the wonders of this land, then the Hawthorntree at Glassenbury, which superstition made so famous: for divers of the same kind are found elsewhere. You may find this[Page 4] grass briefly described in a Book called Phytologia Britannica, (which lately came forth, and sets down even all the plants which have been found naturally growing in England) Gramen Caninum Supinum Longissimum, which groweth 9 miles from Salisbury, at Mr. Tuckers at Madington: wherewith they fat hogs: and which is 24 foot long, a thing almost incredible; yet commonly known to all that shire. Now without question, if the seed of this grass, be sown in other rich Meadows, it will yeild extraordinarily: though perchance not so much, as in its proper place. I wonder that those that live thereabouts, have not tryed to fertilize their other Meadows with it: for it is a peculiar species of grass: and though some ingenious men have sound about 90 species of grasses in this Island: yet there is none like to this, that can by any means be brought to such an height and sweetness. And truly I suppose, that the through examination of this grass, is a thing of very great importance, for the improvement of Meadows and Pastures; and it may excel the Great Trefoile, Saint Foine, La Lucern, or any exotick plant whatsoever. And though I am very unwilling to exceed the bounds of an Epistle; yet I cannot but certifie you, wherein the Husbandry of this Nation in other particulars (as I suppose) is greatly deficient, which I will do as briefly as may be: and likewise, how ingenious men may find Remedies for these deficiencies.

First, He would do the honest and painfull Husbandman a very great pleasure, and bring great profit to this Nation, who could facilitate the going of the plough, and lighten our ordinary Carriages. I wonder that so many excellent Mechanicks, who have beaten their brains about the perpetuall Motion and other curiosities, that they might find the best wayes to ease all Motions, should never so much as honour the Plough (which is the most necessary Instrument in the world) by their labour and studies. I suppose all know, that it would be an extraordinary benefit to this Countrey, if that 1 or 2 horses could plough and draw as much as 4 or 6, and further also, that there is no small difference inploughs, and waggons, when there is scarce any sure rule for the making of them; and every Countrey, yea almost every County, differs not onely[Page 5] in the ploughs; but even in every part. Some with wheels, others without; some turning the Rest (as they call it) as in Kent, Picardy, and Normandy, others not: some having Coulters of one fashion, others of another; others as the Dutch, having an iron wheel or circle for that purpose; some having their shears broad at point, some not; some being round, as in Kent, others flat: some tying their horses by the tail, as in Ireland.

So, likewise Waggons and Carts differ: some using 4 wheels, others 2 only; some carrying timber on 2 wheels in a Cart, others with 4 wheels, and a long pole only between, which is the best way: some plough with 2 horses only, as in Norfolk, and beyond Seas, in France, Italy, where I never saw above 3 horses in a plough, and one onely to hold and drive: But in Kent I have seen 4, 6, yea 12 horses and oxen; which variety sheweth, that the Husbandman, who is ordinarily ignorant in Mechanicks, is even at his wits end in this Instrument, which he must necessarily use continually. Surely he should deserve very well of this Nation, and be much honoured by all, that would set down exact Rules for the making of this most necessary, yet contemned Instrument, and for every part thereof: for without question there are as exact Rules to be laid down for this, as for Shipping and other things. And yet in Shipping, how have we within these 6 years outstripped our selves, and gone beyond all Nations? for which Art some deserve Eternal honour. And why may we not in this? I know a Gentleman, who now is beyond Seas, where he excels even the Hollanders, in their own businesse of draining; who promiseth much in this kind, and I think he is able to perform it; I could wish, he were called on to make good his promise. In China, it is ordinary to have waggons to pass up and down without horses or oxen, with Sails as Ships do: and lately in Holland a waggon was framed, which with ordinary Sails carried 30 people 60 English miles in 4 hours. I know some excellent Scholars, who promise much by the means of Horizontal sails (viz) to have 3 or 4 Ploughs together, which shall likewise both sowe and harrow without horses or oxen.

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I dare not being ignorant in these high speculations, engage my self to do much thereby; but wish these Gentlemen, whom I know to be extreamly ingenious, would attempt something, both for the satisfying of themselves and others. There is an ingenious Yeoman of Kent, who hath two ploughs fastened together very finely, by the which he plougheth two furrows at once, one under another; and so stirreth up the land 12 or 14 inches deep, which in deep land is good. NearGreenwich there liveth an Honourable Gentleman, who hath excellent Corn, and yet plougheth his land with one horse, when as usually through Kent they use 4 and 6. These things shew that much may be done in this kind; and I hope some in these active times, will undertake and accomplish this work of so great importance [...]

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4. A Philosophical Letter concerning Vegetation or the Causes of Fruitfulness

I Shall a little tell you what my thoughts are about Vegetation; and what I have within my self instituted.

First, I have framed a pretty large Induction upon common and familiar Experiments, to demonstrate that without controversie Salt is the seat of life and vegetation, and so the subject of nutrition. And this being assented to, it is in the next place to be considered whether Salt as Salt be this subject, or whether all Salts equally nourish? Here comes in an examination of Salt by their Tribes, as 1. Nitrous Salt, 2 Urinous Salt, in which are comprehended, 3. all Dungs, Horns, Shreads and the like; 4. Common Salt, and Sea sand; 5. Kaly Salt, as Ashes, Kelpes, Mineral Salts, as of Stones or Lime, of Marl, Chalk, Fullersearth, Vitriol.

And because some Salts doe kill, as that of Vitriol, also that of Stones and Lime, if applyed in quantity and to the plant it self immediately. Hence comes the examination of Salts further, viz. Whether any Salt doth universally nourish all Plants, and make them thrive, or whether some doe best agree with one, others with another, and upon the clear determination of this, and this solely doth the great secret of Imbibition depend, if we speak of things rationally, and not like Mountebanks. But here two knots offer themselves, and will do so whether we will or no.

First seeing you cannot sow, set, or plant any Vegetable or Seed in salt alone, but must require two other Media, viz. Water to dissolve and make sluyd the particles of Salt, whereby the pores of the Plant or Seed may be capable of it, and admit it. 2. Earth as a fit uterus or matrix to keep the thing planted steady. Hence a scruple ariseth, what is earth[Page 218] abstractedly considered, for either it is and or salt, or water, or some other body. If Sand, whence comes its clamminess and aptness to sod together? If Salt, whether is that a peculiar salt, and whether can it be separated or not from it? If Water, how comes it to be unable to nourish without addition stil of moysture. If earth be none of all these, what is it, and what is its property, and whether hath it any Energy? And indeed this is a very necessary enquiry; for my Imbibitions signifie nothing if my earth be beforehand impregnated with another salt of perhaps a much different nature than what my plant imbibed doth require: And how shall I know this, when all Inquiries about the natures of earth, their several salts, dispositions, their uses, and necessity for Germination, and their several wayes of composition and correction is wholly lame and unsought after.

5. It is to be considered, that Water, especially Rainwater, hath life in it self without any addition of Salt or Earth, as is most apparent as by many Experiments, so by that famous and commonly known one in Africks, That Rainwater in four and twenty hours will ba full of Insects, that it will putrifie. Now if even Rainwater it self be sufficient for life, and do contain manifestly a vital salt in it, what is the need of those other Salts which seem more remote from a life or vitality of disposition.

6. As no possibility of nourishment, nor any approach to Vegetation without moysture, so no possibility of life without an excitation and production of it by an actual warmth, and this is as well seen in vegetables as in Animals: For the earth is there, the salt is there, and the water is there, yet in sharp and cold weather vegetation is not to be effected. Hence on the other side produceth nothing simply, unlesse in a soyl first sited, and cold it self, though not a fit season for Germination, yet permits of nutrition to many plants, who have even their lustre then, as the Cypress, the Firre, the Bay, with several other. He therefore that will enter upon this great subject of promoting Vegetation, must first know what things are prin [...]ipalia, what minus principalia, tamen necessaria, and what[Page 219]part to attribute to each, viz. the Earth, the Salt, the Water, or Dew the warmth and the spirit of the Plant it self.

Secondly, he must seriously weigh, whether the subject of Fermentation and things that serve to excite and entertain heat be not of one kind, subject of nutrition of another.

Thirdly, whether Fermentation being no other than a species of Motion, there may not be divers sorts of it arising from the nature and diversity of the Salts or other subjects which cause it: And whether according to this divers motion the subject of Nutrition, having in it also a vitall principle, may not be disposed more or lesse, to take this or that figure?

Lastly, he must resolve the several Casualties, as I may call them, of Vegetation, as why the earth puts forth some Plants sponte, not other? why it very seldom puts forth some, unless it be in producing of others, as Botanists can tell you, that many Plants are rarely, or never found unless in ploughed fields, either under Corn and Tillage, or under Fallow, why water should put forth Plants that will not at all grow in the earth? Why on the other side some plants destroy even the Vegetative virtue, as it were in the soyl where they are, as to many Plants, as is manifest in Hemp and in Oade. These, Sir, are the Institutes I set my self to in the point of Husbandry. In the ignorance of any of which, I think a man knows satisfactorily very little. They are rudely set down, but may afford ground of larger discourses. If you shall please either to cheerish or excite this humour in me, by laying or propounding of something further for promoting of vegetation upon these comprehensive grounds, I shall not refuse to deal very freely with you, if you will afford me an occasion by letting me have the thoughts of some better wits than mine own upon them.

This is a selection from the original text


fruitful, husbandry, plants, salt, sowing, vegetation

Source text

Title: Samuel Hartlib HIS LEGACY OF HUSBANDRY. Wherein are bequeathed to the Commonwealth of ENGLAND, not onely Braband, and Flanders, but also many more Outlandish and Domestick Experiments and Secrets (of Gabriel Plats and others) never heretofore divulged in reference to Universal Husbandry. With a Table shewing the general Contents or Sections of the several Augmentations and enriching En- largements in this Third Edition. Psal. 144. v. 13, 14 15. That our Garners may be full, affording all manner of store, that our sheep may bring forth thousands, and ten thousands in our streets. That our Oxen may be strong to labour, that there be no complaining in our streets. Happy is that people that is in such a case; yea happy is that people whose God is the Lord.

Author: Samuel Hartlib

Publisher: J. M.

Publication date: 1655

Edition: Third edition

Place of publication: London

Provenance/location: This text was transcribed from images available at Early English Books Online: Bibliographic name / number: Wing / H991 Physical description: [16], 303 p. Copy from: Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery Reel position: Wing / 868:14

Digital edition

Original author(s): Samuel Hartlib

Language: English

Selection used:

  • 1 ) tp, preface, pages 1-6, 217-219


Texts collected by: Ayesha Mukherjee, Amlan Das Gupta, Azarmi Dukht Safavi

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