A Brief Context

Mounted warfare played a critical role in European affairs of state from the 16th through the 19th centuries. Essentially all English works on horsemanship in that period applied directly or indirectly to the military, particularly the many works focused on the British light cavalry, or “light horse,” prominent in the 17th and 18th centuries.

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Henry Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, by Joshua Reynolds. Accessed via Wikimedia Commons.

These works included broad treatises on the discipline, such as Robert Hinde’s The Discipline of the Light-Horse (1778) and Captain L. Neville’s A Treatise on the Discipline of Light Cavalry (1796), as well as narrower works on equitation, such as the Earl of Pembroke’s A Method of Breaking Horses, and Teaching Soldiers to Ride (1761, with subsequent editions) and William Tyndale’s A Treatise on Military Equitation (1797).

Pembroke’s Military Equitation

Henry Herbert, 10th Earl of Pembroke (1734-94), entered cavalry service in 1752, rose to the rank of general in 1782, and saw his influential treatise through four editions: A Method of Breaking Horses, and Teaching Soldiers to Ride (1761 and 1762), revised and retitled, Military Equitation; or, A Method of Breaking Horses, and Teaching Soldiers to Ride (1778 and 1793). It addressed “the wretched system of Horsemanship, that at present prevails in the ARMY,” a system that leaves men and horses unprepared “for want of proper instructions and intelligence in this Art.”

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The full-leather cover of Military Equitation by the Earl of Pembroke, 1778. National Sporting Library & Museum, Ludwig von Hunersdorf collection.

Military Equitation outlines a program, including lessons, for training the military horse and rider, emphasizing both theory and practice. Unsparing in his criticism of current military horsemanship—after Xenophon, “horsemanship was buried for ages, or rather brutalised, which is still too much the case”—and of inept riding-masters, farriers, and grooms, he spares soldiers and remounts (military equines): their ignorance results from poor training and is therefore correctable. Reason and moderation, patience and gentleness, and simplicity of means are the proper tools for educating horses and soldiers alike.

In The Development of Modern Riding (1962), Vladimir Littauer noted that “Pembroke’s is a very small and unimportant book,” particularly when compared to the 18th century masterworks of dressage. Rather than dismissing Pembroke, however, Littauer was praising him as “a follower of the French school [of dressage who] was practical enough to suggest its considerable simplification for the army,” who successfully repurposed dressage for the military work at hand. What Pembroke did for the French school, William Tyndale did for Pembroke: he further simplified the simplifier.

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Plate from Military Equitation, Third Edition, by the Earl of Pembroke, 1778. National Sporting Library & Museum, the gift of John H. and Martha Daniels, 1999.

Tyndale’s Treatise on Military Equitation

William Tyndale (17??-1830) was a landowner who performed regimental service in the late 18th century, notably as major and lieutenant-colonel in the 1st Life Guards. Tyndale’s first tract, Instructions for Young Dragoon Officers (second edition, 1796), was followed by A Treatise on Military Equitation (1797), published in one edition only. The latter was intended for “regimental riding masters” who may know horsemanship through experience but who cannot teach it effectively because they lack knowledge of its underlying principles.

Tyndale invokes Pembroke’s Military Equitation as “the best work of the kind in our language.” Like Pembroke, he believes that “the present system, which is much the same throughout the cavalry, is contrary to every principle of true horsemanship,” and that successful instruction of young men and horses demands reason, patience, and simplicity of means. Regarding Pembroke’s work, however, as “beyond the comprehension of those whom it is my wish to teach and reform,” Tyndale focuses on the practical application of principles of “true” horsemanship.

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A fold-out plate from A Treatise on Military Equitation, by William Tyndale, 1797, illustrating Tyndale’s plan for a military saddle of his “own invention.” National Sporting Library & Museum.

Tyndale also argues that the British predilection for hunting had caused the military to neglect formal dressageInstructors failed to retrain young recruits in “the method of riding which is necessarily adopted in regiments of cavalry, and which must be adopted by every individual” to prevent confusion—even chaos—in tight formation. Whether Tyndale was right or not, British writers in the next century would press the contrary case for hunting as ideal preparation for cavalry.

National Sporting Library & Museum Holdings

What will 21st century equestrian readers gain from these two treatises on military equitation? They will gain historical knowledge of an important moment in the evolution of horsemanship, and they will find principles and lessons applicable to their own riding. All readers, equestrian or not, will gain the opportunity to converse with two quick and practical 18th century minds and to school with two seasoned trainers of horses and men.

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Title page of the Earl of Pembroke’s book, 1752 edition, with a pasted plate on the facing page depicting the horse Sportsman.

NSLM holds eight copies of Pembroke’s treatise: two copies of the 1st edition, three of the 2nd edition, two of the 3rd edition, and one of the 4th edition. The 3rd and 4th editions call for seventeen plates, and NSLM’s copy of the 4th edition and one of its copies of the 3rd edition each contain the complete set. NSLM also holds a copy of the single edition of the rare Tyndale treatise, complete with its five called-for plates. The copies are clean and clear, and solidly and impressively bound.

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The 1752 edition of the Earl of Pembroke’s book, with the bookplate of the Earl of Lonsdale on the facing page.

A reader with access to NSLM holdings, in short, can experience these two works in their original forms—an experience providing not only textual authority and aesthetic pleasure, but also historical immediacy. Each copy carries its provenance in previous owner bookplates and signatures, auction and donor entries, and marginal notations. Travelers through time, these books carry the physical traces of their histories with them.


caramelloCharles Caramello is John H. Daniels Fellow at the National Sporting Library & Museum and Professor of English at University of Maryland. He is working on a book called Horsemen, Horse Soldiers, and Grand Illusions. This blog is adapted from the Introduction to a dual edition of Pembroke’s Military Equitation and Tyndale’s Treatise on Military Equitation, completed at NSLM and forthcoming from Xenophon Press.

 

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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 patrom, Sir Robert Dormer and also insists "what I am, Art, Soule and affectionis onely Yours; and desire to be so esteemed in all my actions". He signs the dedication "Your Honours humble devoted servant, Gervase Markham".

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.

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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.


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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

We have many things in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room, including many beautifully-decorated books. Often, though, fascinating things don’t have gilt, engravings, or woodblock prints. A tiny (five inches by three inches), leather-bound tome came to hand last week, and it turned into today’s highlight.

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The Generous Sportsman, or, a Brief Discourse of Setting Doggs by A Lover of the Setting Sport. Ca. 1725, bound in early sheep skin, book stamped “Riders 1666” on verso. National Sporting Library & Museum, acquired 1994, the gift of John H. Daniels. F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room.

The book is in the manuscripts collection, and is entirely hand written. As the title page indicates, it is a very early (estimated early 18th Century) work on setters, including a general overview of the breed, and discusses training and traits desired for hunting.

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“Shooting Scene,” from Presentation Copy to William Edkins by Samuel Howitt (c. 1756-1822). National Sporting Library & Museum, acquired 2014.

The author discusses best practices for hunting with dogs, whether allowing them more freedom to roam the field or less is more useful for catching scent. The book also claims that dogs with mottled or black coats are desirable, as they are more visible in the evening hours when bird hunting occurred.

The bookseller’s slips that accompany the book indicate that this is the earliest known book in the English language about a particular breed of dog. It also contains the first known mention of the pointer breed by name. The book was purchased as a Christmas gift for John H. Daniels by his wife Martha in 1993.

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Reportedly the earliest known written reference to the pointer. “Should theze omitt mentioning another kind of Doggs much in Vogue with some by ye term of Naturall Pointer, by some called Spanish Trotter.”

The work is clearly legible, with a little patience. There are many abbreviations to save space in the little notebook, and the non-standardized spelling of the day also challenges the modern reader. However, the handwriting is surprisingly clear once you adjust to it.

What book has surprised you with great content in a humble cover? Do you find reading our highlight images to be difficult? Let us know in the comments below or send us an e-mail!


Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2014. He is responsible for the care of the Library collections, including books, magazines, photographs, diaries, letters, and much more. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact John by e-mail

Today we have something on the lighter side: An Academy for Grown Horsemen; Containing the Completest Instructions for Walking, Trotting, Cantering, Galloping, Stumbling, and Tumbling. The book was written and illustrated by English caricaturist Henry William Bunbury (1750-1811), under the guise of alter ego Geoffrey Gambado, Esq., Riding Master, Master of the Horse, and Grand Equerry to the Doge of Venice. The book was printed in 1796 and is part of the Vladimir S. Littauer collection.

The book spoofs the many Italian riding manuals of the 17th and 18th Centuries, treating poor practices and inattention as riding exercises to be learned and practiced. “When I have told [the reader] how to chuse [sic] a horse,” pontificates Gambado, “how to tackle him properly, in what sort of dress to ride him, how to ride him out, and, above all, how to ride him home again; if he is not a complete horseman in the course of ten or dozen summers, I will be bold to foretell, that neither the skill of Mr. Astley, nor the experience of Mr. John Gilpin, will ever make him one.”

"The Mistaken Notion" Gambado laments the "false notions of horsemanship adopted, and industriously circulated by Newcastle, La Fosse, Pembroke, and Berenger."
“The Mistaken Notion”
Gambado laments the “false notions of horsemanship adopted, and industriously circulated by Newcastle, La Fosse, Pembroke, and Berenger.”
"One way to stop your horse."
“One way to stop your horse.”

Gambado decries the awful state of British horse stock, claiming that nothing can stop modern horses from running in a straight line forever.

“Meet a higler’s cart, he will stop it, either with his own head or your leg; fall in with a hackney coach, and he will carry you slap dash against it.”

Instead, the reader is urged to buy a horse who carries his head low, with “bald face, wall eyes, and white legs,” as this makes the horse easier to see at night.

"How to ride genteel and agreeable down hill."
“How to ride genteel and agreeable down hill.”
"How to lose your way."
“How to lose your way.”

“A cock’d hat . . . has so many [advantages] that it is wonderful to me, it is not universally worn, but more particularly by equestrians.”

"How to pass a carriage."
“How to pass a carriage.”

“In riding the road, observe in passing a whisky, a phaeton or a stage coach, in short any carriage where the driver sits on the right hand, to pass it on that side, he may not see you on the other, and though you may meet with a lash in the eye, what is the loss of an eye to a leg or perhaps neck.”

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“How to ride a horse upon three legs, discover’d Ann. Dom. 1768.”

“The Doctor went off at a spurt . . . and having got clear of the pavement, wished to (what is called) mend his pace; but his horse was obdurate, and all his influence could not prevail. The Doctor fancied, at times, he went oddly, and therefore brought to at Alconbury, five miles from Huntingdon, and alighted for an examination: when he discovered that the hostler, through inattention, had buckled up one of the horse’s hind legs in the surcingle: and to this alone he had to attribute his hobbling way of going.”

Visit the National Sporting Library & Museum website.

I’m pleased to begin this blog for the NSLM Library. As I’ve settled in at NSLM over the past ten months, I’ve come across some amazing materials that are only rarely seen and appreciated by our guests and researchers. As I continue to work on the many ongoing projects at NSLM, I’m delighted at the prospect of sharing it with our members, donors and admirers through an online platform.

The name, “Drawing Covert,” refers to the practice in foxhunting of putting hounds in a covert (pronounced like “cover”), a thicket or wooded brush area, to find the fox. It’s my hope that I can bring forward many of NSLM’s most intriguing and historical items for your appreciation.

To get things off on a good note, I would like to share something I recently found in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room while exploring for materials I could share with the librarians at Mount Vernon. Entirely by accident, I found a fascinating little ledger book in the manuscripts collection.

The book is titled, "Livre Journal de Depenses des Equipages et des Ecuries." I don't know French, but Google Translate tells me means "Expenditure Logbook of Crews and Stables."
The book is titled, Livre Journal de Depenses des Equipages et des Ecuries. I don’t know French, but Google Translate tells me it means Expenditure Logbook of Crews and Stables.
A small modern note was tipped in with the item. It reads "Manuscript account book of the upkeep of the horses and carriages of a wealthy Paris household. 1752-1766."
The ledger book begins in 1752 and ends in 1766. It was acquired by NSLM from Justin Croft in 2009 via the Library’s Book Acquisitions Fund.
Again, with more help from Google: "paille" means "straw." The word "auoinne" is likely the modern "avoine," meaning "oats."
Again, with more help from Google: paille means “straw.” The word auoinne is likely the modern avoine, meaning “oats.”
The accounts show annual expenditures ranging from a low of 1,470 livres in 1764 to the enormous sum of 4,646 livres in 1755.
The cover says that the ledger begins in January 1752. It is bound in a brittle leather.
The cover notes the ledger beginning in January 1752. It is bound in now-brittle vellum.
Near the end of the book, a second style of handwriting appears. This second style appears to have more flow and elegance.
Near the end of the book, a second style of handwriting appears. This second style interweaves with entries from the first hand.