BUSBY, James (1801-1871)
A treatise on the culture of the vine, and the art of making wine; compiled from the works of Chaptal, and other French writers; and from the notes of the compiler, during a residence in some of the Wine Provinces of France.
Australia [i.e. Sydney], R. Howe, Government Printer, 1825. Small quarto (octavo in fours), early diced morocco with gilt borders, rebacked with new spine and endpapers, the preserved original front free-endpaper inscribed by the printer ‘No. 111. A Testimony of Old Friendship renewed. R. Howe. Bastile, June 4, 1825. To the Rev. Ralph Mansfield’, pp. xxxiv, 270, , with one folding table (in pagination); Mansfield’s pencilled marginalia includes much lively commentary on Busby’s text; the half-title and final leaves a little browned; a few spots; a very good copy.
A significant association copy of the first edition of the first Australian book on wine, inscribed by the printer, Robert Howe, for his friend, the Reverend Ralph Mansfield.
Regarded as the father of the Australian wine industry, James Busby arrived in Sydney from Scotland with his family in 1824. ‘As soon as Busby learned that his father would be moving to Sidney he “was induced to spend some months in the best wine districts of France, with a view of acquainting myself with the cultivation of the vine for the making of wine, and having the power to ascertain to what extent it might be profitably cultivated in New South Wales.” Busby wrote part of his treatise while en route to Australia, and within a year of his arrival, he published A Treatise on the Culture of the Vine, and the Art of Making Wine’ (Gabler, Wine into words, 47).
Busby was appointed teacher of viticulture at the Male Orphans School at Bald Hills near Liverpool, and was granted 2000 acres of land. Following a trip to Europe in 1828 he brought back to Australia 678 varieties of vines, of which 362 were successfully grown in the Botanic Gardens of Sydney. It was those vines which were to propagate the vineyards of Australia.
‘While Busby was still in his twenties, he provided Australian growers and winemakers with the two essential ingredients required to produce wine: manuals on how to make it and a wide range of (usually suitable) vine cuttings. Such a combination was unavailable to the winemakers of any other country or region for nearly a century. Through his combined activities, Busby towers over all other contributors to the theory and practice of winemaking in Australia to this day. Partly because Australia was one of the only two countries in the British Empire capable of producing wine (the other was its historic rival, South Africa), his books and those of Alexander Kelly were the only serious nineteenth-century works published in English on viticulture and winemaking’ (Nicholas Faith, Australia’s Liquid Gold, 1904).
In the introduction Busby explains that Australia had a viable future as a major wine producing country, a statement that justifies the epithet for him of ‘prophet of Australian viticulture’.
The wording of Robert Howe’s inscription on the front endpaper of the present copy is fortuitously explained by what we know about Mansfield’s movements from the historical record. Ralph Mansfield (1799-1880), Methodist missionary, arrived in Sydney from England in September 1820. His association with Robert Howe began in that year, when he became editor of the Wesleyan newspaper the Australian Magazine, which was printed by Howe. In July 1823 Mansfield left for Hobart Town, where his job was to establish a seminary for young men in order to prepare them for mission work with Aborigines. His work complete, he was transferred back to Sydney, arriving there at the beginning of June 1825. We can picture Howe greeting his old friend on June 4 after such a long absence, presenting him with this copy of Busby’s immensely important book – a work whose publication was heralded with much fanfare in the colony, and which was hot off Howe’s press – and inscribing it with appropriately affectionate sentiments.
Ferguson, 1004 ; Gabler, p. 49