Garden books in the Special Collections of the Barr Smith Library
An increasing interest in botany
and gardening during the 17th century was accompanied by a kindred
study of the art of husbandry, covering the tillage, cultivation
and care of gardens, orchards and woods and the rearing of
livestock. One example is The
Whole Art of Husbandry or, The Way of Managing and Improving of
Land (London, 1721) by John
Mortimer, who experimented with new techniques at his
Toppings Hall estate in Essex. First printed in 1701, this work
appeared during the decline of the formal garden and the beginning
of the era of landscape gardening. This work proved popular due to
its practical advice on planting and propagating despite the
'old-fashioned' formal garden depicted in the frontispiece.
Popular fashion for landscape
gardening in the 18th century demanded new designs in landscape
architecture. A recent donation, William Halfpenny's Rural Architecture in the Chinese Taste,
Being Designs Entirely New for the Decoration of Gardens, Parks,
Forrests, Insides of Houses &c. 3rd ed. (London, 1755)
demonstrates the fashion for Chinoiserie or Western imitation of
Chinese designs. The inventive and non-conforming
Halfpenny aimed to reduce fashion to practical terms for the
general public and disseminate designs to workmen in the provinces.
Unlike William Chambers, the architect of the Kew Pagoda, William
Halfpenny produced his plans without ever visiting China.
Examples of such Chinese follies
can be found in the paintings of Thomas Robbins (ca. 1745-1750) whose
landscape settings glow with colour from his use of gouache on wood
and vellum, applied with 'the skill of a miniaturist'.
Surprisingly, Robbins' work remained largely unknown until 1967
when a set of his pictures was put up for auction by