Weekly Auctions of Exceptional Items
0 selections
Log In
0 selections
lots of lots
Lot 0001
Walter of Henley. [Hosbondrye], decorated manuscript on parchment, in French (Anglo-Norman), i + 7 + i leaves, one 8-leaf quire but last leaf now lacking, modern pencilled foliation in upper outer corner, text block: 128 x 90 mm, single column, 29 lines, ruled with lead point, without catchwords, text written in cursiva Anglicanan in the same hand throughout, 24 initials in blue, with pen-flourishing in red, often with extension along the margin, other chapter divisions in red and blue, modern brown morocco, with 'Walter of Henley Husbandry 14th Cent' lettered in gilt on front cover, a few leaves slightly browned, some tiny holes, occasionally and partly affecting a few letters, especially to last leaf, upper margin possibly trimmed at time of rebinding, small 4to (199 x 139/140mm.), England, [early 14th century].

⁂ A precious and highly important early 14th century manuscript containing almost the complete text of Henley's Hosbondrye, one of the most significant agricultural works produced in England in the second half of the 13th century, and one of the most famous examples of Anglo-Norman literature.

inc. Le pere sist en sa veillesce e dit a sun fiz (Oschinsky, p. 308, ch. 1)

expl. ou plus ou meyns solum ceo qe le tenys est. (Oschinsky, p. 338, ch. 101)

The text lacks only the final 59 lines (Oschinsky, ch. 102-113). Considering the unknown scribe copied the text with regularity, filling each page with 29 lines, it seems logical to suppose that only the final leaf of the manuscript is now missing.

The Hosbondrye is a didactic treatise on estate management written in the form of a sermon from father to son and giving advice on husbandry, corn farming (ploughing, sowing, harvesting, costs of cultivation, etc.), and livestock farming (cattle, pigs, sheep and poultry). Its exact date of compilation is unknown: it could possibly have been written between c.1276, when the English Parliament debated the Extenta Manerii, concerning estate management, and 1286, i.e. a year after the issue of the Statute of Westminster.

In 1971 Dorothea Oschinsky listed 32 manuscripts of the Hosbondrye, to which a further 3 should now be added. A dozen manuscripts contain the author's name in the title, while only two give biographical information about Henley, describing him as a knight, and later a Dominican friar. The work is generally inserted in manuscript compilations, including statutes, rules, charters, and other texts dealing with estate management and accounting, such as the Seneschaucy and the Rules by Robert Grosseteste.

The text is known in two traditions, called α and β. The manuscripts derived are classed in group A (from α) and groups B-F (from β, and its derived branches γ and δ). The different groups often share variants, or show individualistic omissions or insertions. In this manuscript - in all likelihood originally bound up in a composite codex - the text of the Hosbondrye is copied with accuracy, possibly in a professional milieu. Corrections are lacking and only a few words are wrongly repeated. The text copied belongs to tradition β, but shares some variants with the derived branch γ, establishing a new group from β.
Furthermore, this text is introduced by a four-line passage in which the compiler mentions the name of the author, giving some biographical details about Henley: he is described as a knight who later entered the Dominican order ('Ceo ditte de husebonderie fist un Chivalier Sir Waltier de Henleye qi puis se rendit en le ordre de frere precheurs), information which is given, with a few changes in word sequence, only in two manuscripts: the early 14th-century compilation made by or for the Northampton lawyer John de Longueville (Cambridge University Library, MS Dd.VII.&), and the late Hosbondrye written c.1450, and kept in the Hampton L. Carson Collection of The Free Library of Philadelphia (MS LC 14.3). The scribe also adds a note on the moral content of Henley's advice, a guide for "viuer sagement et honestement de luy biens", a feature that is to be found in a number of manuscripts belonging to group D, transcribed in the early 14th century for monastic houses in southern England, such as the Benedictine Abbey of Abbotsbury, Dorset (Cambridge University Library, MS Hh.II.11), or the Canterbury Cathedral Priory (BL, Add.MS 6159; Cambridge Trinity College, MS O.9.26; Canterbury D.&C. Muniments, Register B, and Register P).

In the 'Preface' to her critical edition, Oschinsky states that 3 further Henley manuscripts have been discovered, "but too late to be included in this book". Among them she mentions the Rothamsted manuscript, whose importance she highlights for a future and more precise reconstruction of Henley's manuscript tradition: "One early-fourteenth-century copy has come to light which is of great interest [...] It enables us, moreover, to assess the printed translation of Walter included in The Booke of Thrift by James Bellot, printed in 1589 [...] We now find that it was translated from a copy which followed the version of the newly-found Rothamsted copy and it can be assumed that the two texts are survivors of a group, widely spaced in time, which ultimately derived from a copy of β older than our γ" (pp. vii-viii).

This is the only manuscript of Henley's Hosbondrye to come to auction since 1978.

Provenance: Rothamsted acquisition date 1939.

Literature: N.R. Ker, Medieval manuscripts in British libraries. V. Indexes and Addenda, edited by I. C. Cunningham and A. G. Watson, Oxford, 2002, p. 13; Walter of Henley's Husbandry, together with an anonymous Husbandry, Seneschaucie, and Robert Grosseteste's Rules, edited by W. Cunningham, London 1890; D. Oschinsky, Walter of Henley and Other Treatises on Estate Management and Accounting, Oxford 1971; R. Dean - M. Bolton, Anglo-Norman Literature, A Guide to Texts and Manuscripts, London 1999, nos. 392-93; W. Rothwell, "Husbonderie and Manaungerie in Late Medieval England: A Tale of Two Walters", The Anglo-Norman Language and Its Contexts, edited by R. Ingham, York 2010, pp. 42-51.

Starting Bid


Buyer's Premium

  • 30% up to £100,000.00
  • 25% up to £1,000,000.00
  • 17% above £1,000,000.00

Walter of Henley. [Hosbondrye], Decorated manuscript on

Estimate £10,000 - £15,000
Get pre-approved to bid live on Tue, Jul 10, 2018 1:00 PM GMT.Register For Auction
Auction Curated By:
Rupert Powell
International Head of Books and Works on Paper
Justin Phillips
Early and Continental Printing
220 Queenstown Road
London, SW8 4LP
United Kingdom
Ask a Question|