Hyll, Thomas 16th Century

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Thomas Hyll was an English gardener who claimed to be a man with "not much learning." In the preface he speaks of his "rudeness of pen" and states that he had nerves "tasted of the learned loake but rather always rudely taught" and that his book is for "the simple and unlettered."

His first book was the first gardening book printed in England and was entitled A most briefe and pleasaunt treatyse, teachynge howe to dress, sowe and set a garden and what propertyes also these few herbes heare spoken of have to our comodytie (1563). An earlier book was mentioned by him but no copy of this can now be found.

A small garden is depicted on the title page of his book. Students are requested to examine the plan carefully with a magnifying glass.

Later editions of this book were entitled The Profitable Arte of Gardening. The first was in 1568 and six editions were printed up to 1608. This book gives a more popular title and is actually a record of a small garden consisting of "posie and garland flowers" and "sweet-smelling bee-harvested herbs" (Rohde, 1924).

He discussed garden flowers in detail, growing instructions for their culture. He supplied designs for mazes and knots. His directions were practical. Two of the designs for mazes were identical with those of the finest country residences in France in the early 16th Century. This is not quite understandable in view of the date of publication of his book.

Hyll died before he had completed The Gardeners Labyrinth (1577). He left the editing to his friend Henry Dechicke. Dethicke prefaced the book with a letter of dedication addressed to Lord Burghley, Lord High Treasurer of England. The letter is as follows:

"I wish unto your honour by dayly Prayer and fruition of the Heavenly Paradise, crauying of the omnipotent and prouident God the guider of that gorgeous Garden that hee would vouchsafe to graunte unto you the sweete Sauour of his chiefe fragrante floures, that is his comfort to cleave faste unto you, his mercy to keepe you and his grace to guyde you now and euermore."

Eleanour Rohde has stated that "a more charming dedicatory letter to a gardening book, it would be difficult to imagine."