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, uncolored lithographic dedication to the Dutchess of Sutherland, 16 uncolored lithographic vignettes on India paper mounted, 24 fine chromolithographic plates, all finished by hand, and mounted in imitation of watercolors on their original card mounts, each with an ink-ruled border and the title added to the mount in manuscript in a fine calligraphic hand, extra-illustrated with a similar plate of an Italian garden, similarly mounted.
Expertly bound to style in full dark green straight-grained Morocco, gilt, the covers with decorative border in gilt and blind, the spine in seven compartments with raised bands, lettered in the second, the others with elaborate overall repeat pattern in gilt made up from massed small tools, chocolate-colored endpapers
A rare, very deluxe issue of this beautifully-executed color-plate book: an important record of the cutting-edge of garden design in the mid-19th century with 26 fine chromolithographed plates finished by hand.
This deluxe issue with the plates mounted in imitation of watercolors is so rare that it is not mentioned in any of the standard bibliographies, and we have never handled a copy before. The plates are here seen to their best advantage: mounted on card in imitation of watercolors with ink-ruled borders and titled in manuscript on the mount. In fact, Brooke's masterpiece is rare in any form: only seven non-deluxe copies are listed as having sold at auction in the past thirty-five years. At the core of the book are the beautiful series of images taken from Brooke's original watercolors. The impending publication was announced by the publisher in February 1857, but according to the preface the work "was the result of years of labor . . . 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 labor. 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 among the English landscape: fashion among 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 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. As Elliott notes, while the eighteenth century saw "the gradual increase in the number of books specializing in the depiction of famous gardens," it was not until Gardens of England that the portrayal of gardens was augmented by color printing. Dr. David Marsh of the UK Gardens Trust declares that the plates here "show an innate sense of place, coupled with a romantic, even theatrical streak. It is no wonder they are regarded as some of, if not the, best evocations of the spirit of great Victorian gardens." In the preface, the publishers rightly claim that the present work is pre-eminent for scenic effect, magnificent decoration, and scientific achievement. Marsh notes that "Brooke was recording trendsetting gardens that influenced fashion for the next 50 years. [The book's] pictures are clear, precise and very carefully delineated in a way which was to go out of fashion probably within 30 years." 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), 39. Gardeners' Chronicle, February 23, 1856, 119. Elliott, "The Cultural Heritage Collections from the RHS Lindley Library," in Occasional Papers from the RHS Lindley Library, vol. 1 (Dec. 2009), 53.