LAING, David. [with] PLAW, John.


LAING, David. [with] PLAW, John. Hints for Dwellings: consisting of original designs for cottages, farm-houses, villas, &c. [with] Sketches for Country Houses, Villas, and Rural Dwellings. [and] Ferme Ornée; or Rural Improvements. A series of Domestic and Ornamental Designs.

London, S. Gosnell for J. Taylor at the Architectural Library, 1801; 1800; 1796.


FIRST EDITION of second. Royal 4to. 3 works in 1. I: pp. vii, [9]-15, [1] + 34 leaves of plates; II: pp. 18, [2, bookseller’s catalogue] + 42 leaves of plates; III: pp. [4], 13, [1], [4, bookseller’s advertisement] + 38 leaves of plates. I: 34 aquatints (with tissue guards) of plans and façades of cottages, farm-houses and villas. Occasional minor marginal foxing, small stain to inner blank margin of pl.14, affecting slightly blank portion of pl.15, ms ‘96 plates’ in pencil at head of title, ms casemarks in pencil and ink to verso. II: 42 aquatints (with tissue guards) of plans, façades and views of cottages. Plates just toned to blank margins, little spots to outer blank margin of pl.11, 24 and 25. III: 38 aquatints, each with tissue guard, of gates, paddocks, plans, dog kennels, pavilions and rural ornamental buildings. Light age yellowing, a dozen plates marginally foxed, repaired tear to blank of pl.21. Good copies in contemporary mottled half calf over marbled boards, corners worn, spine gilt, gilt-lettered morocco label, joints cracked but firm. Contemporary bookseller’s or binder’s ms account to front ep.

A charmingly illustrated collection of popular works on country cottage and smaller country house architecture and landscaping, all published c.1800 – with a total of 114 elegant aquatints. ‘In the late C18 and early C19 the growing middle class became a ready market for books of picturesque designs for modest cottages and villas suitable for country “retreats”, resorts and suburbs. Many authors addressed their books directly to potential clients’ (Archer, p.21). David Laing (1774–1856), pupil of Soane, famously oversaw the building of the New Customs House in London, which, after only a couple of years, started showing cracks and eventually collapsed. Before this event, which ruined his career, he devoted himself to private houses, ‘Hints of Dwellings’ being inspired by his practice. Here, he focuses on country cottages, farm-houses and villas, with the odd excursion into town houses, providing illustrations of façades with lawns and plans. His guiding precept followed Price’s observations on the Picturesque: ‘When Grandeur and Magnificence are less thought of, the most painter-like Effects may be produced, even by a Mixture of the simplest Things, when properly placed and combined with others.’ Laing called his era ‘costly Times, when Labour and Materials for building are so extravagantly dear’. He was aware many gentlemen reading his work would wonder about estimates and expenses, which he refused to put on paper (to avoid ‘Error and false Conclusions’), adding he would be happy to answer specific private enquiries. In this work, Laing suggested that ‘the character of a dwelling should suit the needs of the inhabitant’s social situation’, e.g., luxury and display in grand villas (Archer, pp.50-1).

John Plaw (1745-1820) was active in the 1780s and 90s, as an architect – exhibiting his drawings at the Royal Academy of Arts – and author of illustrated books focused on rural buildings, with a preference for classical circular designs. He was ‘the first British architect to employ aquatint as a means of book illustration’, from 1785, ‘a technique that greatly expanded the available range of tones and textures for illustrating buildings and scenery’ (Archer, pp.31, 107). ‘Sketches for Country Houses’, here in its first edition, is entirely devoted to country houses, villas and rural dwellings, ‘calculated for persons of moderate income, and for comfortable retirement’. It also includes designs for cottages ‘which may be constructed of the simplest materials’. Plaw listed the cost of building material – from bricks to lime, sand, types of timber – and labour at the end of his preface. There follow explanations of the plates, concluding with the total estimate for each building. In case of ‘additions and improvements’, he at times compares the cost of renovating to that of building from scratch.‘Ferme Ornée’ begins with an explanation of the plates, specifying the clients and location for which these buildings or ornaments were produced, the practical reasons for Plaw’s designs, and the way in which they were built. The preface provides a short account of ‘the new method of building Walls for Cottages, &c. as practised in France’, by which walls are made of dry earth beaten together in a mould’. Unexpected for an English country estate is the design for American Cottages, i.e., double cottages built ‘on the plan and in the style of some in America’, where Plaw would later relocate. These Plaw saw in Kent and added them to his work ‘for their extreme singularity’. The last two leaves, tipped-in, contain a bookseller’s catalogue the works of Thomas and James Malton, with price, size, available deluxe copies and publisher’s binding.

‘Plaw set the model for villa and cottage pattern books that became a feature of architectural publishing in England for the next fifty years’ (Millard, 57).

I: BAL 1715; Archer 170.1. II: BAL 2581; Archer 261.1; ESTC t102011; Lowndes III, 1881. III: ESTC N9750; Archer, 259.2. Not in BAL.
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