William Lawson fl. 1618.

The Countrie Housewifes Garden, was the first horticultural work written specifically for women (there would not be another in English for a century). The ‘sound, clear, natural wit’ manifested in it was praised by John Beale forty years later (Beale, 14),

273J William Lawson (1553/4–1635) & Simon Harward, (active 1572-1614)

A new orchard, and garden: or, The best way for planting, grafting, and to make any ground good, for a rich orchard: particularly in the north, and generally for the whole common-wealth, as in nature, reason, situation, and all probability, may and doth appeare. With the country-housewifes garden for herbs of common use: their virtues, seasons, profits, ornaments, variety of knots, models for trees, and plots for the best ordering of grounds and walkes. As also, the husbandry of bees, with their severall uses and annoyances. All being the experience of forty and eight yeares labour, and now the second time corrected and much enlarged, by William Lawson. Whereunto is newly added the art of propagating plants; with the true ordering of all manner of fruits, in their gathering, carrying home, and preservation.  [Divisional title page on leaf H4r: The country houswives garden. & Most profitable new treatise, from approved experience of the art of propagating plants. By Simon Harvvard]

London: printed by W. Wilson, for E. Brewster, and George Sawbridge, at the Bible on Ludgate-Hill, neere Fleet-bridge 1652.    $2,100

Quarto. 18 x 14 cm . signatures; A-N⁴ . “The country house-wifes garden” (p. [57]-92)–has special t.p. It has sometimes been erroneously ascribed to Markham. cf. Dict. nat. biog.

 “A most profitable new treatise … of the art of propagating plants. By Simon Harward”: pages 93-103: “The husband mans fruitfull orchard,” authorship unknown: p. 105-112. ¶ [on page 48 the number ‘4’ is typeset upside down and located above and after the number ‘8’. Page 49 is typeset as ’47’.

 Running title reads: An ‘Orchard.’ Many woodcut floriated initials, title with woodcut scene of men working in an orchard (repeated in text), full-page plan of an estate depicting layout of various parcels and gardens.  Lawson tell us that he instructed the publisher to expend ‘much cost and care … in having the Knots and Models by the best Artizan cut’ there are two  large woodcuts of trees, five  pages of designs for knot gardens. Woodcut of a house for bee-hives, smaller cuts of tools etc in text.  General browning, (as are all the copies I have seen (5 or more) one leaf (full page estate plan))cropped close without loss. The final has a rough/amature repair. It is bound is quarter blue morocco calf over paper boards from the 19th century. 

This is an early edition (stated as: ‘2nd time corr. and much enl’.) of this horticultural classic, first published in 1618, and notable for the inclusion of Lawson’s Country House-Wife’s Garden, the first book on the subject specifically written for women, and one of the most delightful gardening books in the language, illustrated with the oft-reproduced cuts of knot designs.

 Lawson was a long-lived Yorkshire parson and a real ‘hands on’ gardener: he declares his book to be written from ‘my meer and sole experience, without respect to any former-written Treatise’. His two passions were orchards and bees and he covers all aspects of his subjects, soil management, planting and pruning, the construction of beehives, the control of various ‘nuisances’ (including birds, deer and moles) and the harvesting of fruits and honey.

This book refers at times to the difficulties of the local environment and warns his fellow northern gardeners to:

meddle not with Apricockes nor Peaches, nor scarcely with 

Quinces, which will not like our cold parts’.

Further more, northern related he explains how  important it is to keep bees 

in weatherproof accommodation using a good northern term to explain that the .

‘nesh Bee can neither abide cold or wet’!

Layson’s prose are a true pleasure to read, ‘your trees standing in comely order which way soever you look … your borders on every side hanging and drooping with Feberries, Raspberries, Barberries, Currents and the roots of your trees powdred with Strawberries, red, white and green, what pleasure is this?’

Lawson’s summary of the satisfaction to be gained from gardening remains as true today as it was for his seventeenth century readers: ‘whereas every other pleasure commonly fills some one of or senses, and that only, with delight, this makes all our senses swim in pleasure’.

‘To conclude, what joy may you have, that you living to such an age, shall see the blessings of God on your labours while you live, and leave behind you to heirs or successors (for God will make heires) such a work, that many ages after your death, shall record your love to their Country? And the rather, when you consider to what length of time your worke is like to last’

ESTC R23999;   Wing (2nd ed.) L731; Hunt botanical cat. 258; Henrey 228n, p. 160; Rohde, p. 54; British Bee Books 20; Poynter, p. 176. .


{ Comprised of reissues of the following, “The English hous-wife”, 5th ed. 1653 (Wing M630); ” “A new orchard, and garden; … by William Lawson”, 1653 (Wing L731).

/Five libraries hold copies of this edition in the US!, Boston Public, Folger, Harvard, Yale, 

Also see:

The History of Beekeeping in English Gardens

Penelope Walker and Eva CraneGarden History Vol. 28, No. 2 (Winter, 2000), pp. 231-261 (31 pages) Published By: The Gardens Trust