In preparation for a new school program debuting this fall, I have had the opportunity to get to know two fascinating sources from the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room. Markham’s Masterpiece (1656), and Citizen and Countryman’s Experienced Farrier (1764). Both contain 17th and 18th century medical treatments for horses at a time when horses were necessary for farming, trading, traveling, and going to war.
Markham’s Masterpiece was published in London in 1610, a time during which England was just beginning to emerge from centuries of medieval feudalism and the supreme monarchy of the Tudors and to a lesser extent, the Stuarts. This copy is the eighth edition, printed in 1656. Playwrights, musicians, and authors often depended on wealthy superiors to finance their publications and performances. Gervaise Markham (c. 1568 – 1637), author of Markham’s Masterpiece, likely depended on the patronage of Sir Robert Dormer to publish the volume. He introduces the book with a long, flowery letter dedicating his work to Dormer, making it clear the social difference between them. He also lists a ‘who’s who’ of great minds that the book’s contents are pulled from, including ancient greats like Xenophon and contemporary medical minds such as Camerarius.
Markham dedicates the book to his noble patron, Sir Robert Dormer, and also insists
“This Booke is but the externall pledge which doth demonstrate the inward obligation of my heart, since what I am, Art, Soule and affection is onely Yours; and desire to be so esteemed in all my actions”.
He signs the dedication “Your Honours humble devoted servant, Gervase Markham”.
One hundred and eight years later in 1764 a new edition, Citizen and Countryman’s Experienced Farrier, was published in the now thriving American colonies. While the treatments for equine ailments remain almost the same, the introduction and forwarding information are markedly different. The first thing I noticed is that they attribute the book to “ J. Markham, G. Jefferies, and Discreet Indians”. Britain and France had just ended a North American turf war, known as the French and Indian War, in which Native Americans played an important part. It’s likely that British colonial troops picked up some medical and veterinary treatments from their native allies, which then made their way into Experienced Farrier.
Not only that, but instead of depending on a Lord’s endorsement or the famous names of horse experts living and dead, Experienced Farrier leans on the opinions of four local men of principle. These gentlemen met in Kennet Township, Pennsylvania and unanimously declared the book to be “of great Service to the Publick in general”- meaning the every day colonial horse owner. The introduction also asserts that the medical treatments within are prescribed out of . .”a sincere opinion to truth and justice”.
Many scholars agree that heady Enlightenment ideals of justice and the value of common man emerged after the French and Indian War when colonists were beset with unfair taxes and increasing pressure from the English Crown. I was surprised to find how pervasive these attitudes were so early on. Certainly this was not meant to be a rebellious book, yet we see even the title, Citizen and Countryman’s Experienced Farrier, hints towards an understanding that colonists were worthy of education, representation, and respect. It also incorporates remedies and ingredients that are specific to the Western hemisphere, demonstrating that these colonists as not only valuable people, but valuable people who are uniquely American. The American spirit was steadily growing, manifesting itself only 12 years later in the Declaration of Independence.
Anne Marie Barnes is the Educational Programs Manager and Fellowship Advisor at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM). Her passion for museum work began shortly after graduation with a Bachelor’s degree in History from James Madison University. Between her expeience working at the Fredericksburg Area Museum & Cultural Center and the Washington Heritage Museums, she has done everything from designing summer camps to formulating major fundraisers. Have a question? Contact Anne Marie by e-mail