A Vegan Booklet of 1655 – ……don’t think about ‘almost five o’clock’!


Roger Crab (born approx. 1621 – died September 11, 1680).

Roger is the

very first


‘vegan’ / pure plant eater

that we have come across to date in our research.

Roger Crab was a very bizarre Englishman – he was – undefiled with blood – see below for his full epitaph. He was living a very ‘alternative’ & ‘close to vegan’ lifestyle more than 350 years ago.

Roger had fought in the Parliamentary Army in the English Civil War (which ran from 1642 to 1651) before becoming a haberdasher (either with a shop that sells men’s clothes – or shop that sells small items such as needles and thread that are used to make clothes) in Chesham, England.

He later became a hermit and worked as a herbal doctor. (1)

He is best known for this delightfully eccentric & wonderfully titled booklet.


The booklet details Roger’s lifestyle.

He had fully ‘dropped out’ of the rat race.

The first page lists his ‘vegan’ diet:

His constant food is Roots and Hearbs, as Cabbage, Turneps, Carrets, Dock-leaves, and Grasse; also Bread and Bran, without Butter or Cheese.

The Ernest Bell Library has a copy of an 1843 reprint of the 1655 booklet.


The woodcut print  of Roger Crab in this 1843 edition has been badly cropped.

We were recently fortunate to obtain a much better reproduction of the print (the image at the top of this post) from a badly damaged copy of this book: –

Portraits, memoirs, and characters of remarkable persons, from the reign of Edward the Third, to the Revolution : collected from the most authentic accounts extant 

by James Caulfield. (3)

A new edition, completing the twelfth class of Granger’s Biographical history of England, with many additional rare portraits.

London : Printed for S. Kirby …, 1813.

– a copy which a bookdealer was breaking up.

In the print Roger is pictured in his garden, wearing his sackcloth frockcoat without a belt or sash, knee-length breeches, shoes and a shirt. He wears a wide brimmed hat. His cottage (a mean cottage of his own building) is behind him, you can only see a part of the roof and a small whisp of smoke.

We plan to reprint the booklet & the woodcut, as soon as sufficient funds are available.

Contact us for any additional information – humanitarianleague(at)outlook(dot)com

More about The Ernest Bell Library – http://www.happycow.net/blog/remembering-vegetarian-pioneers-henry-s-salt-ernest-bell/


Some more about Roger – from here.

Roger Crab, gent., one of the old celebrities of Bethnal Green, and who was buried at Stepney, September 14, 1680, was one of the eccentric characters of the seventeenth century. The most we know of him is from a pamphlet, now very rare, written principally by himself, and entitled, “The English Hermit; or, the Wonder of the Age.” It appears from this publication that he had served seven years in the Parliamentary army, and had his skull cloven to the brain in their service; for which he was so ill requited that he was once sentenced to death by the Lord Protector, and afterwards suffered two years’ imprisonment. When he had obtained his release he set up a shop at Chesham as a haberdasher of hats. He had not been long settled there before he began to imbibe a strange notion, that it was a sin against his body and soul to eat any sort of flesh, fish, or living creature, or to drink wine, ale, or beer. Thinking himself at the same time obliged to follow literally the injunction to the young man in the Gospel, he quitted business, and disposing of his property, gave it to the poor, reserving to himself only a small cottage at Ickenham, where he resided, and a rood of land for a garden, on the produce of which he subsisted at the expense of three farthings a week, his food being bran, herbs, roots, dockleaves, mallows, and grass; his drink, water. How such an extraordinary change of diet agreed with his constitution the following passage from his pamphlet will show, and give, at the same time, a specimen of the work:—

” Instead of strong drinks and wines, I give the old man a cup of water; and instead of rost mutton and rabbets, and other dainty dishes, I give him broth thickened with bran, and pudding made with bran and turnip-leaves chopt together, and grass; at which the old man (meaning my body), being moved, would know what he had done, that I used him so hardly; then I show’d him his transgression: so the warres began; the law of the old man in my fleshly members rebelled against the law of my mind, and had a shrewd skirmish; but the mind, being well enlightened, held it so that the old man grew sick and weak with the flux, like to fall to the dust; but the wonderful love of God, well pleased with the battle, raised him up again, and filled him full of love, peace, and content of mind, and he is now become more humble; for now he will eat dock-leaves, mallows, or grass.”

The pamphlet was published in 1655. Prefixed to it is a portrait of the author, cut in wood, which, from its rarity, bears a very high price.


Roger Crab’s grave – http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=72925278

His actual grave is no longer seen, but the slab was imbedded in the walkway. Wikipedia has a transcription of his epitaph.

“Tread gently, reader, near the dust
Committed to this tomb-stone’s trust:
For while ’twas flesh, it held a guest
With universal love possest:
A soul that stemmed opinion’s tide,
Did over sects in triumph ride;
Yet separate from the giddy crowd,
And paths tradition had allowed.
Through good and ill reports he past,
Oft censured, yet approved at last.
Wouldst thou his religion know?
In brief ’twas this: to all to do
Just as he would be done unto.
So in kind Nature’s law he stood,
A temple, undefiled with blood,
A friend to everything that ‘s good.
The rest angels alone can fitly tell;
Haste then to them and him; and so farewell!



(1) Wiki – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roger_Crab

(2) Other versions of – 1 Corinthians 8:13 – http://pbible.com/versions/46-1co-008-013.html

(3) Caulfield, James, 1764-1826. – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Caulfield

(4) An excellent article by John Davis on Roger Crab & much more. Medieval Mindsets – ‘Vegans’ In The Middle Ages – http://www.vegsource.com/john-davis/medieval-mindsets-vegans-in-the-middle-ages.html

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About John Edmundson

Working to promote vegan businesses since 1978. Henry S. Salt Archive - researcher & fundraiser. The Humanitarian League - researcher & fundraiser. The Ernest Bell Library - archive manager. Collecting & republishing historical material of vegetarianism and other humanitarian movements. Running the 'Hum-an-imal Badge Co.'.
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