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Reality TV show revives interest in Book of the Farm


Ever heard of The Book of the Farm by Henry Stephens? Neither had I until I checked out the most popular search terms on AbeBooks.co.uk for last week. It appears BBC 2’s new reality TV series, Victorian Farm, has sparked interest in this forgotten out-of-print farming manual that was originally published in 1844.

This scarce book was the most searched for title on AbeBooks.co.uk after the first episode of Victorian Farm aired on 8th January. I haven’t seen the show but apparently the book was referenced several times. As soon as the credits started rolling, copies began selling and now only a handful of copies remain for sale on AbeBooks.co.uk.

The book details farming practices from ploughing to animal husbandry – including lambing – to growing turnips and hiring workers. The Book of the Farm was first printed in 1844 by William Blackwood and Sons in Edinburgh and London with the first American pressing in 1846 by Greeley & McElrath. The book was reprinted several times until falling out-of-print around 1908 – a period when mechanisation began to impact farming methods. I can imagine that The Book of the Farm was a bestseller in its day.

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Richard Davies

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