THOMSON, James (1800-1883)
Retreats: A Series of Designs, Consisting of plans and Elevations...
London: J. Taylor, Architectural Library, 1827. 4to. (11 11/16 x 9 1/4 inches). , vi-viii. 1-32 pp., 41 aquatint plates (31 hand-colored), 16 pp. publisher's advertisements at end, 1 loose paper back cover "Notice de Quelques Ouvrages"
Publisher's dun-coloured boards, re-backed retaining original paper spine label, edges untrimmed
First Edition of this scarce, illustrated model book of Regency designs in Grecian, Gothic, and Rustic styles.
"A delightful and amusing book in fine grain aquatint skillfully coloured (Abbey)." This first edition copy captures the whimsy of "retreats" or supplemental buildings on a property, popular on estates in the Regency England. These curious structures, which could be fashioned as cottages, villas, and ornamental buildings ranging from conservatories to fishing lounges, are a fascinating aspect of Regency architecture, which extended beyond the true Regency (1811-1820) from the turn of the century to the end of George IV's reign in 1830. This architectural period, bolstered by the post Napoleonic building boom and spendthrift habits of George IV, produced a range of structures marked by continued classical inspiration of the Georgian Era and new Revival Gothic, Greek, Italian, Indian, and Chinese inspirations. One of the forms these new styles took were the "retreats" on estates which saw a boom in this period that resulted in the distinct Regency architectural footprint of "innumerable stucco villas throughout the land, which are the more noticeable today for their self effacing decorem" (Reilly). This trend is captured beautifully in this text with 31 coloured plates of a wide variety of these "retreats" and 10 more supplemental design plates that capture the frivolity of these villas, cottages, and ornamental buildings. Further, each of the 31 plates is supplemented with the written design explanation and inspiration for the retreat. One especially amusing commentary covers an ornamental structure "The Bath" which draws inspiration from the Greeks who "formed a part of the ancient gymnasia" and the Romans whose dedication to public baths formed "the most stupendous ruins of that famous city" of Bath. Classical inspiration was fashionable in the Regency era, but unlike in Ancient Greece and Rome this bath was not designed for the masses, but instead for private use, "proposed to be erected on the grounds belonging to a family mansion." Each design is accompanied by commentary such as this, and provides a glimpse into Regency estates. The author, James Thompson, was an important architect and writer of this era. His contributions to Regency architecture include his work as the executive architect for Cumberland Terrace, which has been described as the most splendid of the Regent's Park terraces, and his design of the Royal Polytechnic Institue on Regent Street, London. His written works include this text as well as a later work on school houses.
Abbey, Life 76; "Cumberland Terrace," UCLA Epidemiology; Paul Reilly, Introduction to Regency Architecture.