PLAW, John.


PLAW, John. Ferme Ornée; or Rural Improvements. A series of Domestic and Ornamental Designs.

London, I. and J. Taylor at the Architectural Library, 1796.


Royal 4to. pp. [4], 13, [1] + 38 leaves of plates, 2 folding ll. of bookseller’s catalogue of architecture books tipped-in at rear. 38 charming aquatints, each with tissue guard, of gates, paddocks, plans, dog kennels, pavilions and various rural ornamental buildings. Most edges untrimmed, blank margins somewhat foxed and occasionally dusty to plates, a little toning. A good copy in modern half calf over original marbled boards, spine gilt.

Second edition of this attractive work on architectural designs for the embellishment of rural houses, with 38 fresh aquatints of fences, cottages, poultry houses, gates, paddocks, pavilions, fishing bridges, shooting lodges and even a dog kennel. It set a new style for architectural books with aquatint designs in a picturesque landscape. ‘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). John Plaw (1745-1820) was active as an architect in the 1780s and 90s – 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). First published in 1795, this work 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; this Plaw considered a complementary method to the techniques for mud-walls used in Devonshire, where he worked. The dog kennels, for Lt. Col. Thornton’s fox-hounds, formed ‘an encampment for his spaniels and pointers on an eminence, in a stately grove of oaks, […] which would have a very picturesque effect in the park’. Unexpected for an English country location 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 long bookseller’s catalogue for Taylor’s Architectural Library, 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).

ESTC N9750; Archer, 259.2. Not in BAL.
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