Hints to Planters; Collected from various authors of esteemed authority, and from actual observation. Manchester, R. & W. Dean, 1807.
First Edition. 8vo (185 x 110mm), pp. [vi], -63, , with errata slip, in the original publisher’s red quarter morocco over marbled boards, covers and spine worn, extremities bumped, spine ruled and lettered in gilt, faded, with the contemporary ownership inscription of Tho. Moore.
A delightful guide to the care of English trees written by a young landowner who only a few years previously, at the age of 21, had won a medal for planting 40,000 trees on his recently inherited estate in Cheshire. The work is presented in 24 chapters on different varieties of deciduous and evergreen trees, followed by an appendix on raising trees from seed. Dedicated to ‘the president and gentlemen’ of the Manchester Agricultural Society and with a short preface in which Astley states that his work includes the opinions of authors ‘esteemed for their knowledge of the various species of trees’ and offers this work in the hope that ‘these gleanings and humble hints may be of some trifling service’.
Francis Astley seems to have been an interesting character: as well as being an enlightened landlord, he was an amateur artist and a poet, author a number of poems including Varnishando: a serio-comic poem, 1809 and The Graphomania: an epistle to John Harden, London 1809. He appears, however, to have been dogged by ill-fortune throughout his adult life, losing his first born child in a tragic accident. He was declared bankrupt in 1817 and the books from his library at Dunkinfield Lodge were sold at auction in Liverpool later that year. Scandal surrounded his death and there were accusations of murder as recounted in this biographical sketch:
‘John Astley died in 1787 leaving as his heir his young son, Francis Dukinfield Astley (1781-1825). In 1793 his widow married again, but the family continued to live at Dukinfield Lodge, and Francis seems to have taken up his responsibilities as landowner before coming of age, since as early as 1802, when he was 21, he was awarded a medal for planting 40,000 trees. Francis was a young man of great promise: he was rich, relatively good looking, artistic (he was a published poet and amateur artist), and had a deep concern for the welfare of his tenantry and estate. In 1812 he married and the following year he bought the Fell Foot estate in the Lake District, where he could enjoy fabulous views over Windermere. But tragedy was never far away. His first born son died when just a few weeks old from a fall from a window, and in his efforts to develop his estate and protect his tenants from the worst effects of the depression in trade occasioned by war with France he over-reached himself financially, and in 1817 he was declared bankrupt. However, the discovery of coal on his estate restored his fortunes without the loss of his property, and after many barren years his wife presented him with a son and heir in 1825. But just a few months later he died in his sleep while visiting his brother-in-law, Thomas Gisborne, in Derbyshire. There were accusations of murder, made in a scandalously public way at Astley's funeral, but an independent inquiry which Gisborne instigated to clear his name found no evidence of foul play and declared the death to be 'by visitation of God'. Some doubt must remain, however, as there seems to have been no autopsy, and because just a year later Gisborne married Astley's widow, his deceased wife's sister’ (Nicholas Kinglsey, ‘Landed Families’ blog).
OCLC lists BL, Cardiff, Manchester, Delaware, Cornell, Harvard, UC Berkeley and Chicago Botanic Garden.