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Friday, March 11, 2005

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The Commonwealth of Bees: A librarian in the YLS Rare Books Room recommended to me Early English Books Online, a really impressive service that provides full text-searchable reproductions of English books. I tried a search for "law merchant," and in addition to some of the standard sources, I found this book:

5. Hartlib, Samuel, d. 1662.
The reformed Common-wealth of bees. Presented in severall letters and observations to Sammuel Hartlib Esq. With The reformed Virginian silk-worm. Containing many excellent and choice secrets, experiments, and discoveries for attaining of national and private profits and riches., London, : Printed for Giles Calvert at the Black-Spread-Eagle at the West-end of Pauls, 1655.

Among other invaluable advice, the treatise offers the following:

Necessarie observations concerning the Premisses.

From the middle of Aprill, until the middest of May , look diligently to thy Bees; for then are they near beginning to hatch, and do stand in need of most help, especially if the Spring be cold, and the wind holding any part of the North or East; whereby the tender buds or blossomes do perish, and the Bees are driven to the blossomes of Apple-trees, which is their utter overthrow and decay.

 

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The Royal Fifhes: When I lived in England, I was informed that all swans in Britain were the property of the Queen. No one could own a swan, or eat one without her permission. (Except, of course, for one flock that had been granted by the Crown to Christ Church College, Oxford.) In older times, the same was true of sturgeons, dolphins, and other great sea-creatures, which were reserved for the king's table. Any sturgeons caught accidentally had to be sent to the king--or, if they would not keep, their value could be sent to the royal treasury.

More recently, in the course of research, I was amused to find the following excerpt from William Welwod's 1613 first edition of An Abridgement of all the Sea-Lawes:

Item, fhares, lawfull prizes or goods of the enemy. ficlike Lagon, that which was found lyand at the fea ground, and Flotfon that is found fwimming upon fea, and Ietfon, which is caft foorth of the fea to the fhoare and coaft, with anchorage, beaconages, meare fwine, Sturgeons & Whales, &c. and all fifh of extraordinarie greatnes, called regal fifhes, which all are allowed in great Britaine, France, and other noble kingdomes, to the Admiralls, by their Soueraigne; for the better maintenance of their eftate, iurifdiction, and conferuacie on feas, riuers, floods, roads, ports, harbours, channels, fayling, fifhing, and all trading there, as altogether and chiefly committed to the care, maintenance, and protection of the Great Admirall.

Yarr.

 


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