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Conversations in Garden History: New Research, New Ideas, New Approaches edited by Pippa Potts (Birkbeck Garden History Group, August, 2023). Published in association with the University of London’s Institute of Historical Research (IHR).

Garden and landscape history is a rich discipline, as this new collection of papers so eloquently demonstrates. Covering a wide range of topics, time periods and global locations, the papers are drawn from the History of Gardens and Landscapes Seminar at the University of London’s Institute of Historical Research and celebrate its twentieth anniversary. The postgraduate contributors hail from very varied academic and professional backgrounds and the new research, ideas and approaches they present in this volume attest to the growing multidisciplinary and cross-cultural strength of the subject.

Plants, horticulture, garden design and ornament, even bee-keeping are among the issues addressed in Conversations in Garden History, but they are viewed through the lenses of religion, politics, economics and colonialism as well as social reform. Each of the five chapters in the volume consists of two counter-balanced papers, all aptly illustrated with images as diverse as engravings from a sixteenth-century compendium of plants, depictions from nineteenth-century newspapers, landscape paintings from the seventeenth century and twenty first century photographs.

Prints and the Landscape Garden - Image, Illusion, Illumination by Michael Symes (John Hudson Publishing, January,  2024)

This new book by Michael Symes, considers what prints tell us about the development of the landscape garden in 18th- and early 19th- century Britain. They formed a significant part of the expanding machinery of mass communication and could thus influence taste and spread ideas. This can be interpreted as propaganda, or at least creation of an image that the owner of a property found desirable, and reality was consequently often compromised.

The illusion of actuality could be achieved by many adjustments and techniques employed by artists generally. Even if not entirely representational, a print may have much to reveal about fashions and attitudes towards the landscape garden. At their best they convey powerfully the atmosphere as well as the perception and possible idealisation of a garden. 

This topic has never been discussed with such rigour, and the book addresses the techniques of producing a print, the categories of print and how they were marketed, and includes studies of the greatest engravers and of selected gardens that prints illuminate particularly well. Changes can be observed both in the developments in print-making and in the journey of the landscape garden. 

Michael Symes has written many books on the history of gardens, and established the MA in Garden History at Birkbeck College, University of London. He is a Vice President of the Gardens Trust, President of the Birkbeck Garden History Group, and has been an historical consultant for the restoration of Painshill Park since 1981.

This book will be published as a hardback, with a PDF eBook also available.


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