350-year-old forestry book donated to ANU

6 November 2014

A 350-year-old book showcasing the tree-planting techniques in 17th century England has been donated to the ANU Library.

The donation marks the 350th anniversary of author John Evelyn’s publication Sylva, or a Discourse on Forest Trees.

The book, which is estimated to be worth thousands of dollars, was donated from the personal collection of Emeritus Fellow John Dargavel, a forest history expert who taught and researched at the University for decades.

The book contains information about raising and planting young trees for landscape purposes.

Evelyn composed the book during the Restoration period at the end of a brutal civil war in Britain, which saw King Charles II returned to the throne.

“I bought my copy of Sylva when I was a student in Edinburgh, and took it with me when I came to Australia half a century ago,” Dr Dargavel said.

“It was once owned by General Sir Charles Pasley or his eldest son.”

Dr Dargavel says for tree experts, arborists and enthusiasts, the book is a fascinating insight into the techniques used in the 1600’s – some of which could still be used today.

“People here in Canberra are addressing the same problem but with different trees and different soils. A lot of the techniques of the past have been changed and altered but the important drive and intention remains the same,” he said.

ANU Library has helped him with studies and research, Dr Dargavel said, and this influenced his decision to donate the book to the University.

“I hope that this 3rd edition of Sylva published in 1679 will find a place on its shelves, and one day another reader,” he said.

University Librarian Roxanne Missingham said ANU was honoured to receive the only known copy of this edition of Sylva in an Australian library.

“It is terrific to have it from John because he has used it as a resource with students for more than 30 years,” she said.

“It’s also a wonderful way of linking the history of ANU to the history of scholarly communication and then recording that and making that available to the students of the future.”

ANU has more than 26,000 rare books, and the third edition of Sylva sits in the oldest 10 per cent of the University’s rare book collection.

Sylva will go on exhibition at the W.K. Hancock Building for two months before it is moved to the Library’s Rare Book Collection at the Menzies Building.

old book 1 _1600 AH1P9425 AH1P9427 AH1P9429