A Publication History of John Evelyn’s Sylva. Or A Discourse Of Forest Trees, and the Propagation of Timber I His Majesties Dominions

Prepared by John Dargavel from:

1664–1908Sir Geoffrey Keynes, John Evelyn: A Study in Bibliophily with a Bibliography of his Writings (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1968).
1970–2020Library and internet searches.

Evelyn series

The first four editions were prepared by John Evelyn. The fourth edition was published a few months after his death. Differences between the first three editions mainly concern illustrations and the addition of poems. Evelyn revised and enlarged the fourth edition from 281 to 374 pages. The fifth edition is a reprint of the fourth without its frontispiece.

Sylva was bound with short books also by Evelyn:

  • Pomona: or an Appendix concerning Fruit Trees in relation to Cider: The Making and several ways of Ordering it— all editions.
  • Kalendarium Hortense: or, Gard’ners Almanac: Directing what is he to do Monthly— all editions (also published separately).
  • Terra: a Philosophical Discourse of Earth — from third edition (also published separately).
  • Aceteria, a Discourse of Sallets — from fourth edition.
DateEditionPlace of publication and Publisher
16641st(London: Martyn and Allestry)
16702nd  (London: Martyn and Allestry)
16793rd(London: Martyn)
17064thspelled Silva (London: Scott and others)
17295th(London: Walthoe and others)

Hunter series

Dr Alexander Hunter (1729–1809) prepared an extensively annotated copy of Sylva in two volumes, apparently based on all five editions of the Evelyn series. It proved popular and four further editions were published, two of them posthumously.

1776H 1st(York: Ward)
1786H 2nd(York: Ward)
1801H 3rd(York: Wilson and Spence)
1812H 4th(York: Wilson and Spence)
1825H 5th(London: Colburn)

Mitchell abridged

J. Mitchell produced Dendrologia; or, a Treatise of Forest Trees, with Evelyn’s Silva revised, Corrected and Abridged. Keynes considered that, ‘The work may be described as being based on Evelyn’s Silva rather than as an abridgement’.

1827 (Keighly: Aked)

Reprints, facsimiles and microfilms

19084th ednReprint(London: Doubleday) 2 vols With an Essay on the Life and Works of the Author by John Nisbet.
19701stMicrocard(New York: Readex)
19721stFacsimile(Menston: Scolar Press)
19751stMicrofilm(Ann Arbor: Michigan University Microfilms)
19772ndMicrofilm(Ann Arbor: Michigan University Microfilms)
19795thFacsimile(London: Stobart)
19951stReprint(Woodbridge: UK, Boydell)
20014thFacsimile of 1908 reprint(Brough, UK: Trollius) 1 vol. includes 2 vols of 1908 edn.
2008 & 2009?Facsimile(Charleston, SC: BiblioBazaar) & (United States: Echo Library)
20134thFacsimile of 1908 reprint(Cambridge University Press), 2 vols.

Internet era

Scanned editions of Sylva available to download from the internet, directly or through libraries. Some libraries are provided with editions through distributors. Some examples are shown here (URLs accessed 18 October 2020):

1stOpen Library, available directly
2ndEarly English Books Online, available directly and through libraries, e.g.  
3rdEarly English Books Online, available through libraries, e.g.
1908 reprint of 4th edn.Project Gutenberg, available directly