Reinerus Broocman and A Complete Book of Swedish Husbandry (1736)

Serenius’ book was solely and directly based on English agricultural knowledge. However, information from English sources sometimes found their way into Swedish works in far less direct ways. In 1736, nearly 10 years after Serenius issued his work, Reinerus Broocman (1677-1738) published the first part of his A Complete Book of Swedish Husbandry (En Fulstdndig Swensk Hus-Hdlds—Bok)4' Unlike Serenius, Broocman could not read English and had never been to England. Instead, as a consequence of the Great Northern War, the Swedish Livonia-born minister had been forced to flee to the Swedish mainland. He and his family settled in the town of Norrkbping, where Broocman became minister of the German-speaking congregation.42 In 1723, he started his own publishing house with the intention to publish a Swedish translation of Christian Schriver’s Seelen-Schatz (1675-1692). In the following decade, he continued to publish mostly religious texts, before transferring the ownership of the publishing house to one of his sons.43

Although nearly 60 years old and in bad health, Broocman had great ambitions for his work. Some of these were certainly economic. Broocman focused on printing works that appealed to a greater public and used his network, commissionaires, and advertisements to make sure the books were sold.44 Already in 1727, he had asked the Estate of the Peasants to support the project, in essence requesting them to recommend the book to their friends, giving it an audience and as a consequence some economic security.45 In the book, he expresses a will to circulate useful practical knowledge.46 However, to make it seem reliable and legitimate, he also needed to display his knowledge regarding learned discussions on agriculture. An integral part of his capacity to do so rested on mentioning English agricultural authorities.

Broocman, Serenius, and the problem of measurements

Broocman strove to make his book the most complete book of husbandry yet published in Sweden.47 To accomplish this he elected to, ‘from both old and new, Swedish and German books of husbandry gather and adduce the most useful and necessary [information/knowledge]’. However, his work is rippled with mentions of English authors, such as Robert Boyle, William Camden, Joshua Childrey, Moses Cook, John Evelyn, and Samuel Hartlib.49 On this point, previous scholars have argued that Broocman was well-versed in English agricultural literature.’’0 However, it has recently been shown that this was not the case.51 In fact, Broocman had probably read none of the above-mentioned authors. Instead, his citations are extracted from the Swedish and German books that he did use. One of these books was the manual written by Serenius. In fact, Broocman reproduced Serenius’ whole first chapter - including the citations in relation to Evelyn and Cook.52 However, Serenius’ conversion charts were omitted by Broocman, obscuring the real measurements and therefore diminishing the practical usefulness of the information. The degree to which this information was considered useful was, therefore, not only and not always practical. To Broocman, as well as Serenius, the mentioning of Evelyn and Cook served to illustrate the expertise of the author. This use of English knowledge is even more evident when looking at the following example.

Seaweed and clay: from England to Sweden through Europe

The information in the agricultural works, due to both collective and personal motives, ceased to be connected to reality and instead became part of a larger intertextual network of knowledge and status through the processes of circulation and translation. This is clearly shown by Broocman’s citation of William Camden’s Britannia (1586) and Joshua Childrey’s Britannia Baconica (1660s). In short, the information given is simply that the people of Cornwall have found seaweed and clay to be good fertilisers. However, the story of the circulation, translation, and appropriation of the information is interesting for the purpose of this chapter. In Broocman’s text, the following statement can be found (underlines by me, here and in the following quotations. English translation in endnotes):

V. Profwet.

7, Camdenus uti sin beskrifning om Prowintsen Cornetvall i Engeland, förtäljer, at inwänarena, besynnerligen bönderna ther i landet, betiena sig af siögräset och leret, hwarmed the sin annars af naturen ofrucktsamma jordmon fruchtbar giöra, och man försäkrar, at the ther igenom mer än man nägonsin tro kan, uträttat, och fa skiära up en obegripelig mycken säd.

VI. Profwet.

8. Herr Childerey uti sin Historia naturali om Engeland berättar, at inwänarena uti landet Cornewall hafwa observerat, at ingen ting jordens frucktbarhet hos them mer befrämjar, än hafs-sanden, och at ju lengre uti siön, som then hämtas, ju rikare blifwer theras skiörd.

Thesse 4. Multiplications eller sätt at förmera säden äro tagne utur 112. Observation Journal - eher Ephemerid. Curios. Natur. Germ, de Anno 1671. pag. 185. 186. 187.53

The text mentions Camden, Childrey, and a scientific journal. However, Broocman had - which he acknowledges - translated the information from Christoph Lorenz Bilderbeck’s Entdeckte Grifft Natürlicher Geheimnüsse (1727), which states:

V. Probe.

Camdenus in seiner Beschreibung der Provintz Cornovval in Engelland. erzehlet, daß die Einwohner, und in specie die Bauren dieses Landes sich des Meer-Grases und des Leims bedienen, um ihr, sonsten von Natur sehr unfruchtbares Erdreich fruchtbar zu machen: Und man versichert, daß sie dadurch mehr als man sich einbilden kan, ausrichten, und eine unbegreiffliche Menge Korn einerndten sollen.

VI. Probe.

Der Herr Childerey in seiner Historia Naturali von Engeland mercket an, daß die Einwohner des Landes Comovail observiret haben, daß nichts so sehr die Fruchtbarkeit ihrer Erde befördere oder verursache, als der Sand aus der See, und daß je weiter dieser Sand in der See gehohlet, je grösser und reicher die Erndte sey.

Diese 4 Arten die Fruchtbarkeit oder die Multiplication des Saamens zu vermehren, sind genommen aus der 112. Observation des Journals oder Ephint. Curios. Natur. Germ, de A. 1671. pug. 185. 186. 187,34

However, Bilderbeck had not written this paragraph either, but had taken it from the famous Frenchman Pierre le Lorrain’s, abbe de Vallemont, Curiositez de la nature et de Part sur la vegetation (1708):


Cambdenus, dans la Description de la Province de Cornowaille, en Angleterre, raporte que les Laboureurs de ce païs-là se servent d’Aigue-marine, & de limon, pour fertiliser leurs champs, naturellement très-infertiles. Ils assûrent que par ce moyen ils recueillent des blés, au delà de tout ce qu’on peut s’imaginer.


M. de Childrey, dans son Histoire naturelle d’Angleterre, remarque, que les habitans du pays de Comowaille ont reconnu que rien ne contribute tant à la fécondité de leurs terres, que le sable de la mer; & que plus ce sable est pris avant dans la mer, & plus la récolté est riche. Ces quatre maniérés de multiplier les grains sont tirées de l’Observation cxii. des Journaux, Curiosorum іміипг d’Alemagne, 1671. рдр. 185. 186. 187.

He was the one who had actually read the article cited in both Bilderbeck and Broocman, Philipp Jakob Sachs von Lowenheim’s ‘Observatio CXII: Singularis Spica Hordei’, in Miscellanea Curiosa Medico-Physica Academics Natures Curiosorum sive Ephemeridum Medico-Physicarum Germanicarum Curiosarum (1671), which says:

Cambdenus in descript. Cornwall, s. Danmon. p. 113. breviter nimis & paucis verbis idem innuit: glebam, inquit, alga marina & limo quodam supra quam credi possit incolæ lætificant. Idem Du. de CHILDREY I. a. p. 31. notât. Incolas Comwalliæ observasse sabulum marinum multô magis conducere ad fcecundationem terræ propter adjunctam salsedinem, quàm sabulum ex terra: & fertilius adhuc sabulum, quod non circa littoral mans, sed ex profunditate ipsius extrahatur.56

Sachs von Lôwenheim had probably read Camden’s Britannia himself: his page reference fits the 1590s (reprinted 1616) Frankfurt edition of Camden’s work, which states:

Hæc regio, veluti pensante æquorum cursus naturâ, vt plurimum montibus attollitur, gleba in conuallibus satis fertili, quam alga marina Ore Wood dicta, & limo quodam supra quam credi possit, lætificant.57

However, the reference to Childrey deserves another notation. Sachs von Lôwenheim refers to Childrey’s work as ‘Hist. Natural. Angl.’,5S but the English original is titled Britannia Baconica, or, The natural rarities of England, Scotland & Wales. However, a French translation, Histoire des singularités naturelles d’Angleterre, had been published in 1662 and 1667. The page reference given by Sachs von Lôwenheim matches the 1667 edition, and his phrasing corresponds better with the French text than the English, for example:

Sachs von Lôwenheim (Latin): Incolas Cornwall!« observasse [...]. Childrey (French): Les habitans de Cornouaille ontremarqué 60 Childrey (English): In Cornwall they find that [...J.61

To summarise, the knowledge thus travelled from England to Germany (via France in Childrey’s case), to France and back to Germany, and finally (for our purpose, that is) to Sweden.62 However, one is left to wonder: what use does this information have in Sweden? Cornwall is situated in the far southwest of England, its shores sliding into the Atlantic Ocean, which contains salt-water. On the contrary, the majority of the Swedish shoreline borders the brackish Baltic Sea. Additionally, the great tides of the Cornwall coastline, not matched in Sweden, made it easier to gather the seaweed and clay. Although Broocman certainly aspired to make his book practically useful, the usefulness of this information is therefore somewhat dubious. However, that did not stop it from being useful as a marker of Broocman’s own knowledge, thus legitimating the book and possibly increasing the number of copies sold.

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