The World of Capability Brown: Sign up for catalogue

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.

Email us for your paper copy.

* CB300: i.e.  Capability Brown 300 Celebration and Festival, bringing Brown’s landscapes to a wider audience

Buying Collections of Architecture and Design Material

183640001One of the most enjoyable aspects of bookselling for me is buying collections and recently we have just bought two; both on aspects of design in the 20th century. Our latest collection, books selected from the library of the late Nigel Whiteley, design historian, will form our next catalogue entitled “Reference points in post war design history.” Nigel’s collection extended to some 3000 titles on art, design, architecture and place and reflected his energetic interest in the links between theory, design and culture. The concepts in one of his best known titles “Pop Design: Modernism to Mod,” [1987] on pop theory and design 1952-72, are well represented in the upcoming list in that he collected a whole series of “first” issues of ephemeral magazines, fanzines and zeens which link place and pop culture of the period.

18361The breadth of interest he held in art and design movements, in general, will be also reflected in the list. He followed the progress of Archigram, the influences of modern movement architects and designers amongst other things. If this sounds interesting to you then email us and we will add you to the catalogue email list.

Our other recent purchase concerns British designers of a slightly earlier period who were associated with Alasdair Morton,  who established the Morton Sundour textiles firm and the Edinburgh Weavers. This is a much smaller group of items.  The Morton Family are associated with a whole range of British designers including British illustrators such as Edward Bawden and John Farleigh. Look out for material from this collection on our website. There are a few items featured here already.



In the Kings Manor Courtyard
In the Kings Manor Courtyard

Going to the London Book Fairs Week always turns up some interesting items and this year I have come back to York with a fabulous album of original photographs of the York Pageant 1909; timely because the York Mystery Plays are in progress in the City at the moment and during the 1909 Pageant there was a parade of wagons which included a parade of guild banners accompanying a wagon representing the Nativity and this event is often cited as a precursor of the current mystery play cycle which was reinvented in 1951 at the time of the Festival of Britain.

This is a fabulous album and I have been pouring over it as, it is not only interesting for the people it shows in their strange [to our eyes] costumes, but for the buildings and gardens it shows that were pressed into service as the backdrop of the scenes acted out then.

It comprises 58 photographs, the first two bearing the signature of Louis Napoleon Parker looking very proud [Dramatist and author of the York Pageant] The photographs are fine matt platinum prints mostly by H. Lane Smith + Debenham and Co., York. It depicts the scenes of the Pageant and the key actors and actresses. The setting was the Museum Gardens and St Mary’s Abbey, The Kings Manor and St Leonard’s Hospital all of which were backdrops for variant scenes. There are further photographs of the cast in the main courtyard of the Kings Manor. Photographs vary in size between 10×8 inches and 6 x 4 inches.

The album itself is supported by a very useful contemporary postcard album: 45 sepia photographs of the pageant and participants which are very helpful in interpreting the larger format photographs. These post cards turn up now and then but rarely together.

Of course it is for sale so if you are interested let me know. If you are in York call by and have a look for yourself.