AGRICULTURAL IMPROVER

A sketch of the improvements, now carrying on by Sir John Sinclair, Bart. M.P. in the county of Caithness, North Britain.

London, W. Bulmer and Co., 1803.

Large 4to, pp. [2], 16, with 4 engraved plates (2 folding); a little creasing at corners, some loss at fore-edge of first plate affecting engraved text; a very good copy stab-stitched in contemporary marbled paper wrappers; ‘From the author’ at head of title.

£250

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A sketch of the improvements, now carrying on by Sir John Sinclair, Bart. M.P. in the county of Caithness, North Britain.

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First edition, presentation copy, with attractive engravings showing a ‘Plan of the new town of Thurso’, an ‘Improved elevation and plans of Janet Street in the new town of Thurso’, a ‘Plan of certain farms on the river Thurso ... intended partly to be let in small lots on improving leases to new settlers’, and ‘Sketch of the fishing village of Brodiestown intended to be created at Sarilet’.

Agricultural improver, politician, and president of the Board of Agriculture, Sinclair (1754-1835) was educated at Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Oxford, inheriting his father’s Caithness estates in Scotland. A sketch details Sinclair’s various schemes for improvement, including sheep farming at Langwell, the adoption of a ‘fen system of husbandry’, the creation of new small arable farms, and the establishment of two new villages of Halkirk and Brodiestown and of a new town of Thurso, an attractive Georgian suburb. But as Sinclair here notes, his improving zeal was checked by the prospect of renewed hostilities with Napoleonic France and the financial uncertainty this brought. ‘He held to most of the standard views of improving landowners – their enthusiasm for enclosure, for instance, hostility to commons, and readiness to experiment with new crops ... As with most improvers many of his experiments were expensive failures’ (ODNB).

Goldsmiths’ 18635. COPAC records 5 copies (BL, NLS, Edinburgh, Senate House Library, Southampton). OCLC apparently records only the Yale copy in the US. Rare on the market (no auction records).

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