Country

Idyllic views, working landscapes and natural wonders: explore the allure of picturing the countryside.


A Prospect in the upper part of Dove-Dale, five Miles North of Ashbourn, by Thomas Smith.

Thomas Smith of Derby's 'Prospect in the upper part of Dove-Dale, five Miles North of Ashbourn'

Article by:
Nick Alfrey

Thomas Smith of Derby’s views of the Peak District are celebrated as early examples of the Sublime in English landscape. Nick Alfrey analyses how one plate can also reveal the wider concerns and interests of the artist and his audience.

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Journal of a Ten Days’ Tour from Uley in Gloucestershire by way of Ross

Domestic tourism in Great Britain

Article by:
Rosemary Sweet

In counterpoint to the ‘grand tour’ of Europe, domestic tourism also saw a dramatic increase in the 18th century. Improved roads, health benefits and the chance to discover unfamiliar parts of the country were all stimulants for domestic travellers, writes Rosemary Sweet.

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KNOLE PARK in Kent, the seat of his Grace the DUKE of DORSET. / P. Sandby R.A. pinxt.; M.A. Rooker sculp. Illustration to: 'The Copper plate magazine; or, Monthly treasure, for the admirers of the imitative arts'. (London [England] : printed for G[eorge]. Kearsly, no. 46, Fleet Street, 1774-1778.).  View of Knole Park, the large and sprawling house beyond with turrets on either side of the gatehouse, a lake and woods in the park beyond, a carriage driving along the road, a large tree to the middleground with an encircling bench with a gentleman reading a book, three elegant riders with a dog to the foreground.

Country houses and The Copper Plate Magazine

Article by:
Jocelyn Anderson

The King’s Topographical Collection includes dozens of extraordinary albums of images, organised geographically. The images within these volumes, however, vary considerably: some are maps, some are watercolours, and some are prints. Jocelyn Anderson discusses prints of country houses from The Copper Plate Magazine: now spread across George III’s Collection, these views were originally part of a single series.

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Peter Tillemans (about 1684-1734), A View of the Country about Northampton taken from the Road between Northampton & Kingsthorpe, September 1721, monochrome wash over pencil with pen and ink, 21.8 x 45 cm, Add MS 32467, f.166

Taken from the road: Peter Tillemans in Northamptonshire

Article by:
John Bonehill

A group of drawings in the British Library’s Manuscripts collection tell the story of Peter Tillemans’ work for the antiquary John Bridges. Touring Northamptonshire with Bridges in the summer of 1721, the drawings depict the county’s contemporary topography and rich antiquarian history. John Bonehill explores further.

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Map of the Eure River from Pontgouin to Versailles

Mapping Europe’s waterways in George III’s Topographical Collection

Article by:
Mercedes Cerón

George III’s Topographical Collection includes maps and views representative of ‘Canal Mania’: the intense spate of canal-building which took place in the late 18th-century Britain. Mercedes Ceron explores further.

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John Laporte (1761–1839), after Walden Henry Hanmer (1761–1825), Cowthorpe Oak, 1806, hand-coloured soft-ground etching, Maps K.Top.45.41.2.

Remarkable trees

Article by:
Christiana Payne

Christiana Payne explores prints and drawings in the King's Topographical Collection which depict celebrated and culturally meaningful trees.

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Shaft of a Lead Mine. View near Pont Aberglasslyn, Carnarvonshire, looking towards the Bay of Cardigan, by John Hassell.

John Hassell, Wales and the ‘industrial picturesque’

Article by:
Mary-Ann Constantine

Mary-Ann Constantine examines the harmonious blending of modern industry with the Welsh landscape in a series of prints by the London-based artist, John Hassell.

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Samuel Hieronymus Grimm, The Great Gatehouse of Battle Abbey, 1780–1791, watercolour, Add. MS 5670, f.38

‘Everything Curious’: Samuel Hieronymus Grimm and Sir Richard Kaye

Article by:
Brett Dolman

Over 3000 drawings by Samuel Hieronymus Grimm are housed in the British Library’s Department of Manuscripts: the impressive result of over 20 years touring to record ‘everything curious’ in England. A project funded the antiquary Sir Richard Kaye, Grimm’s drawings capture local history and contemporary life in England in the last decades of the 18th century. Brett Dolman explores.

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View of the Cascade in the Garden, by John Spyers.

John Spyers, topographical artist

Article by:
Tom Drysdale

John Spyers is best known for his association with the landscape gardener 'Capability' Brown, but his independent role as a topographical artist has received little attention, as Tom Drysdale explains.

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Figures loading cargo from a boat onto a cart led by horses; a river in the centre of the scene; houses on the right bank and in the distance; trees on either side; TWICKENHAM. / Drawn by Pugin ; Engraved by J. Hill. John Hill, 1770-1850, printmaker. [London] : Published Feby 1 1811 by T. Clay No 18 Ludgate Hill London., [February 1 1811]

Richmond and Twickenham: A Modern Arcadia

Article by:
Martin Postle

A royal enclave, an artistic and literary hub, and an elegant suburban retreat, Richmond-upon-Thames was ideal subject matter for 18th and 19th century artists and printmakers. Their depictions of the area are well represented in the King's Topographical Collection, leading Martin Postle to explore why so many made this culturally rich London borough the focus of their work.

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Francis Grose, by Francesco Bartolozzi after Nathaniel Dance.

Captain Francis Grose – populariser of antiquities

Article by:
John Farrant

John Farrant takes a look at the work of 18th-century antiquarian Captain Francis Grose, whose hobby for making sketches – many of which are now in the collections of the British Library – culminated in the publication of works on the antiquities of Britain.

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View of PART of SYDNEY, the CAPITAL of New South Wales; Taken from Bene Longs Point

West’s views of New South Wales

Article by:
Oliver Flory

A set of views in the King's Topographical Collection shows blossoming settlements in the Australian territory of New South Wales. Published in Sydney by Absalom West, the set provided George III with a glimpse into colonial life thousands of miles away. Oliver Flory explores further.

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Samuel Buck (1696-1779), Drawings from the Yorkshire Sketchbook in Another volume of Mr. Warburton's collections for Yorkshire, containing a great many views of towns, ruins, gentlemen's seats, &c. chiefly pen and ink sketches, several of which are very neatly executed, 1719-20, pen and brown ink, Lansdowne MS 914, f.209

The brothers Buck

Article by:
Alice Rylance-Watson

Alice Rylance-Watson provides an overview of the work of brothers Samuel and Nathaniel Buck: two topographers whose prints popularised prospects of Britain in the 18th century.

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The South East Prospect of the City of Bristol

Samuel and Nathaniel Buck – Past and present in the national landscape

Article by:
Andrew Kennedy

Andrew Kennedy explores how brothers Samuel and Nathaniel Buck, the leading topographical print-makers of the 18th century, pictured Britain's historical relics as well as its contemporary, rapidly modernising towns and cities.

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Thomas Sutherland (1785-1838) after James Hakewill (1778-1843), Trinity Estate, St Mary’s, published London, Hurst Robinson & Co., 1 June, 1825

The picturesque at home and abroad

Article by:
Carl Thompson

The ‘picturesque’ – an aesthetic ideal introduced in the 18th century – was one of Britain’s most influential cultural movements. Picturesque places were depicted widely in prints and drawings, published in engraving series and as illustrations to books, poems or travel guides. With reference to selected British Library collection items, Carl Thompson explores how the picturesque was employed to depict Britain’s domestic and imperial landscapes.

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A view of the source of the River Arveiron in the Graian Alps

Painting the Alps: Transforming perceptions of Francis Towne and his contemporaries

Article by:
Timothy Wilcox

Francis Towne visited the Alps in September 1782, following a stint in Rome. With reference to prints and drawings in the King's Topographical Collection, Timothy Wilcox traces Towne's presence in the Alps, exploring particular landscapes and artists which guided him through this sublime and glacial landscape.

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A map of the roads through England, Wales and part of Scotland from Daniel Paterson's British Itinerary (1785)

The natural world through early modern strip maps: a narrow view of nature

Article by:
Daniel Maudlin

Drawing on the British Library’s collection of 18th-century road maps, travel guides and atlases, Daniel Maudlin considers how the road-building boom of Georgian Britain and British America transformed actual and imaginative experiences of travel.

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John Boydell (1720-1804) after Thomas Gainsborough (1727-88), A View near to Sudbury in Suffolk, London, John Boydell, about 1747, etching and engraving,  platemark 255 x 350 mm, image 235 x 335 mm, Maps K.Top.39.25.c.

Thomas Gainsborough and the making of the Suffolk Landscape

Article by:
Peter Moore

Peter Moore traces Gainsborough's Suffolk in the maps and views of the King's Topographical Collection.

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A view of Killaru churchyard on the Isle of Islay by John Cleveley, junior.

Itinerant view takers

Article by:
Ann Payne

Ann Payne, former Curator of Manuscripts at the British Library, outlines how topographical views were often the result of artists touring in Britain and beyond.

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A view of a picnic on Staple Island by Samuel Hieronymus Grimm.

Topographical drawings at the British Library

Article by:
Ann Payne

Former Curator of Manuscripts at the British Library Ann Payne provides an introduction to the scope and content of the extensive collections of topographical drawings at the British Library.

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On the River Thames, Bermondsey, by George Scharf.

Picturing the local

Article by:
Ann Payne

Topographical artists, authors and collectors often concentrated on particular areas, as Ann Payne, former Curator of Manuscripts at the British Library explains.

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Plan of Solway Moss

John Ainslie's plan of Solway Moss – Recording a lost landscape

Article by:
Bill Shannon

Bill Shannon of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society offers an in depth analysis of a manuscript map in George III’s King’s Topographical Collection, exploring it as a unique record of place.

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Charles Turner (1773-1857) after Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851), Norham Castle on the Tweed, London, 1 January 1816, mezzotint and etching

Turner's topographical watercolours

Article by:
Sam Smiles

Sam Smiles shows how topography was central to JMW Turner's output, and how his career was arguably built on designing topographical views for print publication.

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Lucas de Heere (1534-84), Stonehenge, about 1573-5, pen and ink on paper

Topography and prehistoric Britain

Article by:
Sam Smiles

Britain's prehistoric landscapes are depicted in prints and drawings across the British Library's collections. Sam Smiles, Emeritus Professor of Art History, University of Plymouth, explores further.

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The prospects of the two most remarkable towns in the north of England for the clothing trade, viz. Leeds, As it appears from Holbeck Road, and Wakefield, As it appears from London Road, by William Lodge.

Local historians in the 18th century

Article by:
Rosemary Sweet

Writing local histories was a favourite hobby of many in the 18th century who had spare time, money, and a desire to find out more about their towns and country. Rosemary Sweet examines some of the motivations of local historians and the usefulness of their work for historians today.

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view of wynnstay

Fidelity and elegance: The aquatint landscapes of Paul Sandby (1731–1809)

Article by:
Ann Gunn

Ann Gunn explores Paul Sandby’s pioneering achievements in aquatint through prints in the King’s Topographical Collection. A printmaking technique popular for its ability to mimic the effects of watercolour, Sandby used aquatint to reproduce many of his own landscape drawings created on tours of England and Wales.

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klencke atlas folio 38

The Klencke Atlas

Article by:
Tom Harper

Tom Harper tells the story of the Klencke Atlas. One of the largest atlases in the world, it was presented to Charles II by the Dutch merchant and scholar Johannes Klencke in 1660.

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A View of the House and Part of the Garden of Sir Francis Dashwood Bart. at West Wycomb in the County of Bucks.

Pleasure in pleasure gardens

Article by:
Stephen Bending

During the 18th century, public and private gardens were designed as realms for entertainment, polite sociability and leisurely retreat. With reference to items in the King’s Topographical Collection, Stephen Bending explores how pleasure gardens were depicted in contemporary engravings – from the bustling commercial gardens of London to the landscaped parkland of a gentleman’s country estate.

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Johan Fredrik Martin (1755-1816) after Elias Martin (1739-1818), Stockholm sedt från Mose-Backe på Södermalm, 1805, etching and aquatint, 465 x 720 mm, Maps 35690.(15.).

Topography, iron-making and national identity in the 18th century – A British–Swedish comparison

Article by:
Mikael Ahlund

Mikael Ahlund explores the role British topography played in Scandinavia, paying particular attention to two Swedish artists, brothers Elias (1739-1818) and Johan Fredrik Martin (1755-1816). Having studied and worked in London, when they returned to Sweden in 1780 the brothers emerged as the country’s leading topographical artists, their paintings and drawings addressing contemporary debates about national identity, economics, and social order.

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Piazza and Church of Santa Maria Forisportam in Lucca by Bernardo Bellotto. Carriage and figures in the Piazza di Santa Maria Bianca in the foreground, with group of three-storey houses, Colonna Mozza and end of the Via Santa Croce at left, palazzo and campanile at right, and main façade of the Chiesa di Santa Maria Forisportam in the background.

The Ground Glass: Landscape Art, the Camera Obscura and Photography

Article by:
Michael Collins

With reference to collection items in the British Library and beyond, photographer Michael Collins shows how the portable camera obscura was used as a drawing aid by landscape artists of the late 17th and 18th centuries.

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Portrait of William Burrell by Robert Laurie (after Richard Cosway).

Dr William Burrell's 'Intended History of Sussex'

Article by:
John Farrant

The British Library holds William Burrell’s research materials from the 1770s and 1780s towards a history of Sussex which remained unpublished at his death in 1796. John Farrant explores how his work was of great value to later historians and underpinned the county histories which appeared between 1815 and 1835, while the 1,300 watercolours of views, antiquities and buildings continue to be a treasure trove for researchers.

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A View of the South Side of the Fort of Gwalior

What is a travel print?

Article by:
Douglas Fordham

Douglas Fordham looks at the complex role printed illustrations played in the making, meaning, and marketing of British travel literature in the 18th and 19th century.

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Frederick Charles Husenbeth (1796–1872), Fresco at St Nicholas’ Church, Yarmouth, undated, pen and ink and watercolour, Add MS 23062, f.31.

Dawson Turner’s Index

Article by:
Martin Hopkinson

Dawson Turner commissioned drawings by his family and local and nationally-significant artists such as John Sell Cotman to accompany Blomefield’s History of Norfolk. Martin Hopkinson tells the story of Turner’s project, exploring some of its many highlights.

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Fore front of the Weavers' House near Bowmore on the Island of Islay, by James Miller.

The Weaver's Cottage in Islay

Article by:
Nigel Leask

The members of Joseph Banks' voyage to Iceland in 1772 did not have to travel far to see the unusual. A humble dwelling on the Hebridean island of Islay provided a source of fascination for the expedition's artists, writes Nigel Leask.

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18th-century country house guidebooks: tools for interpretation and souvenirs

Article by:
Jocelyn Anderson

Jocelyn Anderson discusses the emergence of 18th-century country house tourism, focusing on the publication of visitor guidebooks.

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A view of Fountains Abbey by Samuel Hieronymus Grimm.

British topography: ‘Our real national art form’?

Article by:
Felicity Myrone

Felicity Myrone explores how topographical art has been defined and categorised since the 18th century – by artists, critics, art historians and collectors.

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View of the back of Whitehall with figures sitting in the foreground; ruins in the middle ground; a horse and cart on the right. Paper bears a Whatman watermark.

Putting topography in its place

Article by:
Felicity Myrone

Felicity Myrone explores how the ‘placing’ of topography and the collections’ perceived status and current accessibility at the British Library is the result of complex and often unintentional sequences of events.

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Topography ‘being in no respect like it’: illustrations of Carlisle Cathedral

Article by:
Grant Lewis

Grant Lewis traces the use and re-use of a highly inaccurate image of Carlisle Cathedral, and asks what this problematic case-study tells us about the workings of the London print trade.

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18th-century country house guidebooks: tools for interpretation and souvenirs

Article by:
Jocelyn Anderson

Jocelyn Anderson discusses the emergence of 18th-century country house tourism, focusing on the publication of visitor guidebooks.

Read more
A view of Fountains Abbey by Samuel Hieronymus Grimm.

British topography: ‘Our real national art form’?

Article by:
Felicity Myrone

Felicity Myrone explores how topographical art has been defined and categorised since the 18th century – by artists, critics, art historians and collectors.

Read more
View of the back of Whitehall with figures sitting in the foreground; ruins in the middle ground; a horse and cart on the right. Paper bears a Whatman watermark.

Putting topography in its place

Article by:
Felicity Myrone

Felicity Myrone explores how the ‘placing’ of topography and the collections’ perceived status and current accessibility at the British Library is the result of complex and often unintentional sequences of events.

Read more
Titlepage of Johan Fischerström's Utkast til beskrifning om Mälaren (Draft for a Description of Lake Mälaren) published in 1785.

The first published picturesque description of Sweden – Johan Fischerström

Article by:
Mikael Ahlund

Mikael Ahlund explores Johan Fischerström's 1785 description of Lake Mälaren in Sweden, which includes one of the first recorded uses of the term 'picturesque' in Sweden.

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An etching of Andra Fallet vid Husqvarna, published in Jonas Carl Linnerhielm's 'Bref under resor i Sverige'.

The travel journals of “the first Swedish tourist” – Jonas Carl Linnerhielm

Article by:
Mikael Ahlund

The traveller and writer Jonas Carl Linnerhielm celebrated the natural beauty of the Swedish landscape within the picturesque tradition through his writings and etchings. Mikael Ahlund examines Linnerhielm’s three publications and reflects on the impact of the writer known as “the first Swedish tourist”.

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A hand-coloured impression of a print of Kenilworth Castle, Warwickshire, after J.M.W. Turner, published in 1832.

Literature and the transformation of topography: the case of Kenilworth Castle, 1700–1850

Article by:
Dale Townshend

Dale Townshend examines the cultural transformation of the ruined Tudor palace at Kenilworth following the publication of Sir Walter Scott's tragic romance in 1821.

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‘Abbatia Divi Andrae’, engraving, from Antonius Sanderus, Flandria Illustrata (Ghent, 1641)

Chorography and natural philosophy in late 17th century England

Article by:
Nick Grindle

Nick Grindle explores the relationship between text and pictorial topographical representations in the genre of chorography during the 17th century.

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Watercolour of Hinton Place.

Hinton Place: a Georgian country house mystery

Article by:
Stephen Gadd

The history of Hinton Place, destroyed in a fire in 1777, is retraced by Stephen Gadd through contemporary topographical sources.

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View of a natural harbour on Innisfallen island, Killarney

A Picturesque Tour of Killarney

Article by:
Finola O'Kane

Finola O'Kane examines how Killarney, County Kerry rose to become one of the pre-eminent tourist destinations in the 18th and 19th centuries

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Ruins of the ancient monastery on the Island of Oronsay

Thomas Pennant and British topography

Article by:
Sileas Wood

Sileas Wood offers an introduction to the tours, travels, and topography of Thomas Pennant.

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engraving of a fountain, folly and trees from Batty Langley's 'New principles of Gardening'

Georgian Country Houses and Gardens

Article by:
Dr Karen Limper-Herz

As domestic tourism became fashionable in the 18th century so too did interest in country houses and gardens. Karen Limper-Herz takes a closer look at some of the stately homes, and the publications portraying them, that were particularly popular in this period.

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Further themes

Antiquarianism

How did amateurs, collectors and enthusiasts record the past before the development of history as a modern discipline?

Country

Idyllic views, working landscapes and natural wonders: explore the allure of picturing the countryside.

Military and maritime

Before photography, what role did handmade images play in military and maritime enterprise?

Science and nature

Discover images of the natural world treated as objects of fascination.

Town and city

Pictures of the built environment: how do they reveal religious, political and social history?

Transforming topography

Changing ideas about the nature and purpose of views and records of place.