Running to just 16 lots, a small group of early books on a broad range of agricultural and related matters that formed part of an April 26-28 sale held in Colchester came from the library of Prof Robert Boutflour (1890-1961), a distinguished academic and agricultural reformer.
Very much the star turn at Reeman Dansie (20% buyer’s premium), making £60,000, was a 1471 Augsburg first of Commodorum Ruralium by Petrus Crescentius, the first printed book on agricultural matters and here offered in a mid-19th century binding of crushed green morocco gilt.
As recorded in the biography of her husband that Mary Boutflour published in 1965, it was a gift from BOCM (British Oil and Cake Mills), in recognition of the huge financial benefits that his work had brought to dairy farmers in particular.
A vote of thanks delivered at the time included the words: “Sir, you have put thousands of pounds into the pockets of dairy farmers. God knows how many millions you must have put into the pocket of BOCM.”
Boutflour was appointed principal of the Royal Agricultural College in Cirencester in 1931. Student numbers rose from 150 to 800 during his tenure and following his death he was described by one commentator as “…the most capable, colourful and forceful character that ever adorned the fields of agriculture”.
Another BOCM gift in the Essex sale was a 1548 edition of The Boke of Husbandry… of Sir Anthony Fitzherbert (1470-1538), an English scholar, judge and legal authority whose interests also encompassed agricultural matters.
In a 20th century morocco binding, this copy appears to have been purchased in 1954 from Thomas Thorp’s Guildford bookshop for £60. This time the price was £5600.
Jethro Tull work
Though dampstained to the margins throughout and in a modern board binding, a 1721 first of the revolutionary agriculturalist Jethro Tull’s The New Horse-Houghing Husbandry: or, An Essay on the Principles of Tillage and Vegetation sold at £3700.