This is the tercentenary year of the birth of Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, which is being widely and rightfully celebrated. As our contribution to marking his landmark anniversary we have produced a catalogue of books and related material on this design genius, the father of contemporary landscape design, and his world.
Brown wrote very little which has yet been discovered about the philosophy or his methods of design. Thus his landscape designs are his essays on landscape. There is a much quoted clip from Hannah More, who knew Brown first hand, where she reports he likened his approach to literary composition and of course there are scattered plans of his schemes for certain properties, contracts, an account book and bank ledgers so crafting a catalogue about Brown has thrown up challenges. One can set the context of the environment in which he was working in terms of his contemporary designers and the literati of the day and draw together later commentaries, some favourable, some critical of his work but there is really nothing in his own words on his work.
A diligent minute taker wrote down his proposals at Burton Constable, East Yorkshire, and here and there are comments; but unlike others in British landscape design practice such as Humphry Repton, John Claudius Loudon [who wrote millions of words], Edward Kemp and later practitioners we can only pore over the surprisingly extensive survivals of his landscape designs, not his words, for understanding of intention. Nonetheless for this important maker of the English Landscape style, whose work is still highly influential on modern designers, we have put together a catalogue of books etc. which may contribute to understanding his work. There are of course gaps in the narrative as booksellers are only able to assemble what they can find but this list is our contribution to CB300* which celebrates and interrogates the work of this landscape designer. We hope it will provide a window on Brown the designer and his historic context to reveal an area that deserves detailed examination and greater understanding.
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* CB300: i.e. Capability Brown 300 Celebration and Festival, bringing Brown’s landscapes to a wider audience