The Art of Removing Wood”

By STEUART, Sir Henry, 1828 
£400
£240

The planter’s guide; or, a practical essay on the best method of giving immediate effect to wood, by the removal of large trees and underwood; being an attempt to place the art, and that of general arboriculture, on phytological and fixed principles; interspersed with observations on general planting, and the improvement of real landscape; originally intended for the climate of Scotland.

Natural History, Science & Medicine
  • Author: STEUART, Sir Henry
  • Publication place: London
  • Publisher: John Murray, Albemarle Street
  • Publication date: 1828.
  • Physical description: Octavo (225 by 145mm), six preliminary leaves including title page and illustrated frontispiece, [i]-xxxvii, [1]-527pp, six etched plates throughout, advertisement bound before half-title, occasional minor foxing, brown boards, rubbed, rebacked.Collation: [a6] b‑c8 d3 A‑2K8.
  • Inventory reference: 16026

Notes

Rare and extensive treatise on the transportation of trees.

Sir Henry Steuart was a Scottish landowner and agriculturalist, who rose to prominence thanks to his novel method for transporting and transplanting trees. As explained in The Planter’s Guide’, Steuart’s approach involved selecting a tree based on its height, uprooting it with the surrounding soil, moving it atop a large wheeled machine” (Plate III), and replanting it in another plot. This worked successfully throughout Great Britain, paving the way for much experimental work in landscape gardening and horticultural design. The technique proved less successful in America, however, because the variable climate meant that transplanted trees often failed to take root. Nonetheless, Steuart’s work was received with enthusiasm. The book was reviewed by Sir Walter Scott, who claimed in his diary that Sir Henry is a sad coxcomb, and lifted beyond the solid earth by the effect of his book’s success. But the book well deserves it”.

Steuart’s own writing style was no less scathing, as large sections of the work are given over to criticism of alternative and traditional methods. His tone is perfectly captured by the advertisement bound at the front of the volume, which complains that sundry ignorant and uneducated persons are endeavouring to impose on the public, by making it to be believed , that they have been in [Steuart’s] service, and in that way have learned the Art of Removing Wood on his principles, of which they are altogether ignorant”. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the author did not enjoy the same popularity as his horticultural methods. In fact, his work provoked a lively pamphlet war among the pundits’ (Tait) and incited another agriculturalist, Billington, to claim that he had preceded Steuart in discovering the best strategy for the transplantation of trees. Nonetheless, The Planter’s Guide’ ran into several editions and was widely circulated throughout the nineteenth century, particular in America.

Although this edition is widely held in institutions worldwide, we have been able to trace only six other examples on the market, making it especially rare.

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