LANGLEY, Batty. Gothic Architecture, Improved by Rules and Proportions…Plans, Elevations and Profiles.

London, John Millan, 1747


4to. (i) 64 engraved plates. Black letter, some Roman. Label of Edmond L. Lincoln to pastedown. Slight age yellowing, light browning to edges of tp. A very good, clean, well margined copy on thick paper in contemporary speckled calf with gilt border, spine with gilt tools in compartments, red morocco label.

Batty Langley (baptised 14 September 1696 – 3 March 1751) was an English garden designer and prolific writer who produced a number of engraved designs for “Gothick” structures, summerhouses and garden seats during the first half of the 18th century. He published extensively, and attempted to “improve” Gothic forms by giving them classical proportions while retaining the home-grown English roots. This example is his best known work, first published in 1742 and reissued in this 1747 edition. It uses the original plates from the first edition (dated 1741 and 1742), adding a new 1747 title page. He provided inspiration for elements of buildings from Great Fulford and Hartland Abbey in Devon to Speedwell Castle in Brewood in Staffordshire and Tissington Hall in Derbyshire, as well as the Gothic temple at Bramham Park in Yorkshire. Eileen Harris and Nicholas Savage observe, ‘Langley had much to gain by concentrating his publishing activities on architecture, for which there was a considerably larger, more diversified, and less discriminating market.’

The text consists entirely of exquisitely engraved plates that provide scale designs for columns, doors, ornamentation, facades, and other architectural elements with the correct classical dimensions and proportions. Ornate Gothic-style embellishment frames these. The five classical orders are given a English medieval twist, marrying antiquity with the contemporary taste for revivalist architecture. The work was influential and popular, though not to all. Horace Walpole, owner of the renowned Gothic revival house Strawberry Hill, stated “All that his books achieved, has been to teach carpenters to massacre that venerable species, and to give occasion to those who know nothing of the matter, and who mistake his clumsy efforts for real imitations, to censure the productions of our ancestors, whose bold and beautiful fabrics Sir Christopher Wren viewed and reviewed with astonishment, and never mentioned without esteem.” (Walpole, Anecdotes of Painting, 1798, p 484).

Harris 1990 411; Archer 172.3; Schimmelman 61; New Berlin Cata. 2276; Wiebenson III-A-29; Not in Fowler.
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