Samuel Hartlib on William Potter’s Land Bank

In the post Land-Banks as a substitute for Alchemy?! I mentioned a text by Samuel Hartlib, on William Potter’s land bank proposal, The Key of Wealth. The 1653 essay,

An essay upon Master W. Potters designe, concerning a bank of lands to be erected throughout this common-wealth: whereby lands may be improved in a new way to become the ground for increase of trading, and of publique and private revenues, and accomodations, represented thus briefly, by a person of singular zeal and integrity to all publike interest,

appeared originally as an appendix to:

A discoverie for division or setting out of land, as to the best form, published by Samuel Hartlib, Esquire, for direction and more advantage and profit of the adventurers and planters in the fens and other waste and undisposed places in England and Ireland ; whereunto are added some other choice secrets or experiments of husbandry, with a philosophical quere concerning the cause of fruitfulness ; and an essay to shew how all lands may be improved in a new way to become the ground of the increase of trading and revenue to this common-wealth

and this text is described as “Imparted in a letter to Samuel Hartlib by Cressy Dymock.”

Hartlib, who was among the founders of the Royal Society, appears to be fodder for extensive study on his own, some of it bibliographical. He was vitally interested in questions of “husbandry,” which appears in this instance to amount to a concern with what later radicals would call “the land question.” Several of Hartlib’s books consist of letters from others in his circle, and library citations are full of questions about attribution. One source attributes An Essay upon Master W. Potter’s designe to Sir Cheney Culpeper. Potter, Cressy Dymock, and Robert Child all seem to have been part of Hartlib’s circle, and all were concerned with the productivity of the land and the prosperity of the people. Robert Markley notes a contribution to a volume titled Samuel Hartlib His Legacy of Husbandry, by Potter, in which he claims that “the capacity of inriching this Nation, is in a sort infinite.” It looks like our land bank pioneers also, unsurprisingly, labored in some other interesting directions. [So. . . off go the library requests. More later, including William Potter’s works themselves.]

An Essay upon Master W. Potter’s designe is now available in pdf form from the Libertarian Labyrinth.

There is an interesting manuscript transcription of the work, from 1732, available for sale online.

About Shawn P. Wilbur 2703 Articles
Independent scholar, translator and archivist.