(London: T. McLean, 1857). 553 x 456 mm. (21 3/4 x 17 3/4"). Lithograph title and dedication, 32 unnumbered leaves (the last page of text for Alton Towers appearing on the verso of the first page of text of Teddesley-Hay). FIRST EDITION, Deluxe Issue.
Expertly bound to style in dark green straight-grain morocco, gilt, the covers with decorative border in gilt and blind, raised bands, spine panels filled with large and elaborate fleurons made up from massed small tools radiating from a central rose. With 16 uncolored lithographic vignettes on mounted India paper, and 26 VERY FINE LITHOGRAPHIC PLATES (including the title page), as called for, ALL FINISHED BY HAND, and all except the title page mounted in imitation of watercolors on their original card mounts with an ink-ruled border and handwritten title in a fine calligraphic hand; extra-illustrated with a plate by Brooke of an Italian garden, similarly mounted. Abbey Scenery 392; Mass. Hort. Soc., p. 39. See also: Gardener's Chronicle 23 February 1856, p. 119 ("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; some being finished by hand, and sold at twice the price of the ordinary prints. . . ."); Elliott, "The Cultural Heritage Collections from the RHS Lindley Library" in Occasional Papers from the RHS Lindley Library, vol. I (Dec. 2009), p. 53. ◆Occasional minor thumbing to margins, mounts just slightly toned at outer edges, but A CHOICE COPY, the binding lustrous and unworn, and the color plates very fresh and beautifully colored.
This is an outstanding copy of the first British book on landscape gardening to feature plates printed in color; ours is the uncommon deluxe edition with hand-finished plates mounted in imitation of watercolors. The chromolithographs are based on Brooke's watercolors, painted from life over a period of years. The publisher's preface notes, "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." As Elliott notes, while the 18th century saw "the gradual increase in the number of books specialising in the depiction of famous gardens," it was not until "Gardens of England" that "the portrayal of gardens was augmented by colour 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's no wonder they're 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." And this volume is not just a lovely garden book; it is an important documentation of the extravagant private homes with acres of meticulously tended gardens that would go the way of the dinosaur after the Great War. Here, in all their glory, we see the perennial borders, terraces, parks, and fountains of 19 stately homes, among them Castle Howard, Wilton House, Bowood House, Alton Towers, Holkham House, and Humphrey Repton's masterpiece, Woburn Abbey. Trentham Hall, home of the Duchess of Sutherland (to whom the work is dedicated), is the star of the show, the gardens designed by Capability Brown, with additions by Charles Barry, featured here in five color plates and one black & white lithograph. As Penelope Hobhouse said in "Painted Gardens," for Brooke "style is everything." Little is known of Brooke (1821-1910), except that he painted primarily landscapes, and exhibited his work at galleries, including at the Royal Academy, between 1844-64. This is his only illustrated book. The additional plate of an Italian garden at the end of our volume, not called-for or mentioned in the bibliographies, suggests that perhaps another work--of Italian or Continental gardens, perhaps--was considered but never came to fruition. Copies of this work occasionally appear at auction, but, since it is a book that would encourage avid readership, it almost always appears badly used or incomplete. And virtually never in our deluxe format. It would be extremely difficult to find as satisfying a copy as the present one. (Lhi21107)