the lyne is the speedier and the most commodious and also of most antiquitie
By LEIGH, Valentyne [Valentine] , 1577

The Moste profitable and commendable science, of Surveying of Landes tenements, and hereditamentes: drawen and collected by the industrie of Valentyne Leigh.

Natural History, Science & Medicine
  • Author: LEIGH, Valentyne [Valentine]
  • Publication place: London
  • Publisher: Andrew Maunsell
  • Publication date: 1577.
  • Physical description: Small quarto (185 by 130mm), [120]pp, two folding tables, the first supplied in facsimile but with only one sheet of the two, small woodcut device on title, woodcut diagrams and initials, title with faint trace of early ink signature at head and small paper flaw hole to outer margin, lightly browned, ex libris to front pastedown, eighteenth century sheep-backed marbled boards, a little worn and stained, spine in five compartments separated by raised bands, spine ends chipped.

    Collation: A-G4 I-Q4.
  • Dimensions: 195 by 135mm. (7.75 by 5.25 inches).
  • Inventory reference: 14780


The first edition of Leigh’s science of surveying.

Up until the publication of the present work, sixteenth century books on surveying had been divided into two main groups: those concerned with providing advice to land stewards and owners of manors such as Fitzerbert’s Surveyinge (1523), and those concerned with the measurement of land such as Benese’s work of 1537.

Leigh was the first to attempt to combine both these strands, stating that it was not just the duty of the surveyor to measure the land, but that he should be able to furnish the owner with information, on what constitutes a manor, its rents and holdings, and have a fair knowledge of the law regarding estates and manors. Furthermore the agent should also be able to give a complete account of the value of the lands, their rents and fees.

Leigh goes on to provide detailed instruction on the use of the rod (Rodde) or line for surveying, “the lyne is the speedier and the most commodious and also of most antiquitie”, and recommends that one should carry “a Diall [i.e. compass] in your hands (according to Maister Fitzherbertes counsaile”. The text continues with a discussion on how to measure an irregular field, and ends with the suggestion that a map should be provided with the completed survey.

The work was obviously held in high regard at the time, as it was published twice in 1577, and again in 1578, 1588, 1592, and 1596. John Norden also references Leigh in his important work on surveying The Surveiors Dialogue of 1610.

Valentine Leigh (d 1563) was a prosperous London mercer, and resided on Lodde Lane in the St Lawrence Jewry parish. When Leigh died he owned two houses (next to each other), a lute, several bibles, and other books.

Rare. ESTC records five copies in the UK and three in the USA.


  1. Fussell I, p.7.

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