Thomas Whately's Observations on Modern Gardening (1770) is the first and most comprehensive study of what has come to be known as the English landscape garden, often claimed to be this country's greatest original contribution to the fine arts. It became the standard text on the subject; its authority was accepted at home and abroad, and Observations on Modern Gardening was read widely across Europe, mainly in a French translation. It influenced taste and design; taught visitors how to respond to gardens; analysed natural and built elements of the garden; suggested principles of design; and provided descriptions of major gardens of the day, such as those at Blenheim and Piercefield (Monmouthshire), together with the author's responses, aesthetic, mental and emotional. It indicates a taste for the natural and the "picturesque", foreshadowing romanticism.
This first modern edition of the text is accompanied by an introduction and full commentary, covering both general considerations and specific points and topics. Contemporary illustrations have been chosen to illuminate further the gardens and places discussed.
Michael Symes is an author, lecturer and garden historian. He founded the MA in Garden History at Birkbeck, University of London, and specialises in eighteenth-century gardens in Britain and on the continent.