The Feminin' Monarchi', or The Histori of Bees.

BUTLER Charles (1634)



Third Edition. Small 4to (175 x 130). [16], 112, 112, 115-182 pp., with woodcut illustrations in the text and 4pp of printed music. Title-page stained and browned, some marking and water staining in places throughout, some headlines cut into. Disbound from a pamphlet volume and re-bound to style in calf-backed marbled boards, red morocco and gilt label.


Oxford: William Turner, for the Author, 1634

STC 4194. First printed in 1609 (as The Feminine Monarchie, or, A Treatise Concerning Bees) and again in 1623. This is the first edition in Butler's reformed phonetic spelling.


The most famous edition of Butler's important work on beekeeping - written in his own phonetic spelling system. 


"The Feminine Monarchie is an outstanding contribution to the literature of apiculture, particularly on the keeping of bees in traditional domed skep hives where the combs created by the bees adhere to the wall. Butler provides a commentary both on then current apicultural methods and on improved techniques based upon his own careful observations. In the 1609 edition he tried to indicate the piping noise of unmated queen bees by a system of musical notation. In the 1623 edition he expanded this into a four-part madrigal. The text still merits study by the serious beekeeper, although many of his technical terms fell out of use in the nineteenth century" (ODNB).


The third edition is dedicated to "the Queen's Most Excellent Maiesti'", Henrietta Maria (neither the first nor second editions have a dedication). The dedication plays on the notion of the powerful (female) queen bee. The woodcut illustration on the verso of the title-page shows Butler's notion of the order of the hive with the Queen at the pinnacle and "plebs" at the bottom. 


The second and third editions have the madrigal, Melissomeles, or Bee's Madrigall with the music partly printed upside down so that four singers could sing from the same book. The madrigal attempts to imitate the "piping" sound of the honeybee.


Provenance: Earls of Macclesfield, facsimile bookplate on the front pastedown. Disbound from a larger Macclesfield pamphlet volume. Not included in the Macclesfield sales at Sotheby's but instead retained and recently acquired by Maggs.

Stock Code: 244215

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