BROOKE, Edward Adveno (1821-1910)
The Gardens of England
London: T. McLean, 1857. Folio. (21 x 17 3/4 inches). Mounted on guards throughout. Chromolithographic title, uncoloured lithographic dedication to the Dutchess of Sutherland, letter-pressed text, 16 uncoloured lithographic vignettes on india paper mounted, 24 fine lithographic plates, printed in colors and finished by hand.
Original green morocco-backed boards, title stamped in gilt on upper cover.
A lovely copy of this famous colour-plate book: an important pictorial record of garden design in the mid-19th century.
At the core of the book are the beautiful series of images taken from Brooke's original watercolours. The impending publication was announced by the publisher in February 1857, but according to the preface the work "was the result of years of labour ... The preparation of the original drawings required that the artist should be upon the spot wherever it was desirable to proceed, - and this not for a mere casual visit or a hurried sketch, but for the purpose of patient and careful labour. Thus, Mr. Brooke has spent several summers in undivided attention to the views contained in this volume. not satisfied with first or second studies, he has made repeated visits to each locality, and is enabled, therefore, to offer drawings which are correct and faithful in all their details." Bowood House, Alton Towers, Woburn Abbey, Holkham House, Castle Howard, Wilton House, and thirteen others are featured. The resulting plates offer a rare eye-witness record of many of the gardens of these best-known English country houses at a time when they were coming into what was to prove to be their glory days. Various factors combined to produce this flowering amongst the English landscape: fashion amongst the landed elite required them to surround their great houses with great gardens; a flood of new species were arriving from throughout the Empire and beyond; a generation of knowledgeable gardeners were in place to employ the latest effective cultivation techniques; public interest in general was focused on botany and on a number of plant groups in particular (tulips, auriculas, camellias, orchids and ferns). Given this set of circumstances and the plethora of botanical monograms and periodicals that were published at this time, it is surprising that this work is almost unique in what it set out to do. Many of the gardens were begun in earlier times, but most feature additions, sometimes in the Italian style, which proved a major attraction for Brooke. The magnificent gardens depicted include those at Trentham Park (laid out by Capability Brown with additions by Charles Barry in the 1840s), Enville Hall (gardens extended in the mid-19th century and celebrated for its fountains, its floral display, and its domed and turreted oriental palace of a conservatory), Bowood House (originally laid out by Capability Brown but with Italianate terraces added), Alton Towers, Elvaston Castle (famous for its splendid arboretum), Shrublands Hall (Italianate terraces by Barry), Woburn Abbey (a Repton masterpiece), Holkham House (William Kent-Capability Brown, with extensive 1850s additions including a parterre with the Earl of Leicester's initials in box, and a pair of flower beds in a Louis XIV pattern accompanying a fountain representing St. George and the dragon), Castle Howard (whose modern additions included a new parterre using yew hedges to frame the lawns and the Triton Fountain taken from the Great Exhibition), and others. A notice of the work appears in the February 23, 1856 issue of the Gardeners' Chronicle: "Mr. McLean has issued a prospectus of an illustrated work to be called 'The Gardens of England' ... The plates will be executed in lithotint in folio; being finished by hand, and sold at twice the price of the ordinary prints ...". There are no other pictorial surveys that can match Brooke's work for its scale or its scope: it is one of the truly great gardening books.
Abbey Scenery 392; Bobins 62; Mass.Hort.Soc.(1918) p.39.