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Michigan State University

British Studies: the 18th Century, a Guide to Topics in the MSU Libraries' Collections: PRACTICAL ARTS AND THE SCIENCES

This is a guide to 18th-century British studies materials, particularly in our Special Collections and Rare Books unit.


The Library has worked assiduously in the 20th century building up the 18th-century English literature and history collections. The materials published 1660-1815 in the British Isles or other English-speaking places, located in Murray and Hong Special Collections, about various practical arts and the sciences began to be collected much earlier because of Michigan Agricultural College's land- grant roots and mission. Murray and Hong Special Collections continues to add veterinary medicine, cookery, home economics, agriculture, apiculture, landscape design, botany, horticulture and gardening, and natural history titles published in the 18th century. One might wonder why an American land-grant college has so many books on these various sciences which are about the British Isles. How would they be useful in American farming, for example? In the 18th -century publishing in America was very limited; works printed in England were reprinted in America. Many English-speaking people brought with them or imported British works because this is where the definitive works of the time, in English, on a great many topics were first published. Some did, and some did not, relate to American farming or gardening conditions and situations. These works formed the basis upon which American natural and agricultural knowledge was built. People living in North America had to discover the extent to which English farming methods and techniques applied, or didn't apply to American soil, climate, and seasons. Ditto for books on plants and, indeed, on all aspects of the natural world.