It is with real pleasure Prospect Books announce the publication of a facsimile (enlarged by 15% to promote legibility) of this wonderful book. William Ellis lived and farmed at Little Gaddesden in Hertfordshire, although he was originally a London brewer. (His only other book on domestic economy was indeed about brewing.) He wrote several books of husbandry - and was famous enough to be visited by the Swedish traveller Per Kalm, who was shocked to find that Hertfordshire menfolk looked after the cattle and the women did very little indeed except prepare food, 'which they commonly do very well, though roast beef and puddings form nearly all an Englishman's eatables'. Ellis wrote about the farm and how to make money from its produce or how to cook it. There is much about farming itself and plenty of medicine; there are long sections on brewing and distilling; there is more about bread and grain cookery than in any other English book of the period I know; there is an almost complete disregard of fancy cookery of French kickshaws to impress the neighbours. This book tells more of the actual product of English country kitchen, and more about regionality and local custom, than its contemporaries. He 'invariably knew what he was talking about' (Maclean).
William Ellis was born in the 1680s. Little is known of his early life. He had sufficient schooling to write many books but the absence of classical allusions in his works suggests a basic education in a village school, or as an apprentice, rather than that of a gentleman. He was related to the Sherard brothers, both distinguished botanists. From stray comments in his books we learn that, prior to taking up farming, he was for a while an Exciseman. An uncle was a London brewer: Ellis was his executor and spent some time himself as a brewer in London. He may have been apprenticed to his uncle, carrying on the trade after he died.