Katherine Woodford: Order and Inspiration

Katherine Woodford
Katherine Woodford

Katherine Woodford was the subject of what appears to be a genuinely heartfelt dedication by Leonard Mascall, a famous agricultural writer. His book on poultry management describes her as the wife of James Woodford, who was the chief clerk of the kitchen to Queen Elizabeth I. This is interesting because this era was a time of specialty chicken breed development and proximity to the wealth and status of the Royal household may have meant that Katherine Woodford was involved with this in some way.

Mascall asks Katherine Woodford to be “the patron and defender” of his work; the idea here could be that he viewed Mistress Katherine as a respected expert on the keeping of poultry in her own right. He offers the book as a way for her to improve her poultry-keeping, which is obviously a subject of interest. More importantly, Katherine is listed as the major motivating factor in Leonard Mascall’s investigation of ancient works by Roman authors, which included their translation from French. The resulting book was the first work on poultry keeping to be published in English, which made techniques and ideas accessible to readers in the British and Irish isles.

The dedication page from the book “The Husbandly ordering and Government of Poultry. Practised by the Learnedest, and such as have been known skillfullest in that Art, and in our time” (modern English; original title in reference at bottom of page):

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Leonard Mascall (1662)
Leonard Mascall (1662)

Leonard Mascall was an author and translator who focused primarily on agrarian topics. Katherine Woodford was not the only woman who inspired his work, as his book on fishing was adapted from the writings of Dame Juliana Berners.

Mascall, L. 1581, The Husbandlye Ordring and Gouernmente of Poultrie: Practised by the Learnedste, and Suche as haue bene Knowne Skilfullest in that Arte, and in our Tyme, London: Thomas Purfoote, for Gerarde Dewse.

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