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Snakes alive! Rare book from 1704 reveals how to battle UK snakes with onions and radishes!

Posted on 24/10/2018 in Press Coverage

An extremely scarce English hunting book dating back more than 300 years and unearthed in Buxton could soar at auction – and fascinate the world with its strange advice, writes Charles Hanson.

The book, which was taken to a free valuation event at The Devonshire Dome in October, was published during the reign of Queen Anne in 1704.

Called ‘The Experienc'd Fowler Or The Gentleman's Recreation’, it was printed for G Conyers at the Golden Ring and J Sprint. It has an estimate of £100-£200 but, according to books expert Jim Spencer, could fly at auction.

It belonged to a man called Thomas Davenport who wrote in the book in 1769: ‘If let loose and you it find, I pray you be so good and kind, As to restore it to me again – And I will pay you for your pain’.

Featuring woodcut illustrations, the book provides instructions on catching birds with 'nets', 'lime-rods', 'snares and springes', low-bells', 'lights', 'trammel', 'baits' and 'trap-cages'.

One section, entitled 'The Compleat Vermin-killer', offers instructions for destroying weasels, moles, snakes, pole-cats, earwigs, nits and flies.

For example, to kill snakes or adders: ‘Take the largest Radishes, pare them small, and sprinkle them near their haunts, and eating of them they will dye. If you would handle Snakes without danger, wash your hands in the Juice of Raddish, and they will not bite you. To gather them in one place, take a handful of Onions, and about ten River Crab-fish, pound these together, and this mixture laid near their Haunts, will gather them together, so that you may destroy them.’

It also explains how 'to make birds sing in autumn and winter'; 'to make a hen lay soon, and fast'; 'the speediest way to fatten poultry' and how 'to fatten herons, pewits, gulls, and bitterns'.

Hansons’ Library Auctions are going from strength to strength thanks to finds like this and the passion of its department head Jim Spencer.

He regularly hits the headlines, not just in Britain but around the world, thanks to his discoveries. For example, this autumn, a rare first edition of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations which Jim found at Bishton Hall in neighbouring Staffordshire, sold for £65,000.

Major dealers and collectors are now flocking to Hansons’ Library Auctions, some enticed from London to the first time to explore the finds at our Derbyshire saleroom. Let’s hope this Buxton discovery attracts their attention too.

Other finds in the town in October included a large, brass Victorian gas light with shade, light fitting and vintage spirit level in a box, a good early Crown Derby vase and a nice collection of Victorian horse brasses.

Hansons valuers will offer free valuations at The Devonshire Dome, The University of Derby, 1 Devonshire Road, Buxton, SK17 6RY, on Thursday, November 15, 2-4pm.