COUNTRY HOUSES FOR ‘THE MODERN LIFE’
A Series of Designs for Villas and Country Houses.London, for J. Taylor at the Architectural Library, 1808.
FIRST EDITION. Royal 4to. pp. -20 + 24 leaves of plates. 24 aquatints of façades and plans of country houses. Entirely untrimmed, some fore-edges a trifle soiled. A very good, large copy in publisher’s paper boards, C20 cloth reback, paper label to spine, boards a bit rubbed, oil stain to upper, pencilled ms note to outer margin of p.20.
A very good copy, entirely untrimmed, of the uncommon first edition of this influential architectural work on the design of country villas and houses, ‘adapted with economy to the comforts and to the elegancies of modern life’, illustrated with 24 aquatints of façades and plans. The English architect Charles Augustin Busby (1786–1834) designed buildings in Brighton and London; in 1817-18, he was in North America, where he visited New York and toured New England. The present was his first published work, intended for a middle class, property-owning readership of varying but not insubstantial means, eager to improve and embellish. Here, ‘Busby contradicted not only Malton, Atkinson, and Lugar, but also Repton and Knight; he admitted the beauty of picturesque natural scenery but denied the role for the picturesque in architecture. Rural buildings should not be composed of “irregular masses, and assemblages of light and shade” […]. Instead, a building “forms only a component part of the scenery and […] all the beautiful effects […] are produced by the contrast of the regularity of the building with the picturesque variety of nature’ (Archer, p.93). Busby preferred ancient Greek designs, which he celebrated against the ‘heavy, uncouth and inelegant’ Egyptian architecture – a style he called ‘most absurd’ when used in buildings of his own times – albeit he admits that ‘unfortunately Architects of all ages and countries are obliged to submit to national and prevailing customs’. The plates illustrate small country houses of half a dozen rooms on average, with ‘all conveniences usually required for a small respectable family’, at times providing also for servants’ apartments, according to budget. One of the villas was built at Nightingale Lane near Clapham Common, then surrounded by a park and trees, and no longer standing today, some are ‘small country houses’, others are said to provide ‘a pleasant occasional retreat to a gentleman engaged in business’.
BAL 512; Archer 30.