Friday, October 5, 2012

The Architect and Builder's Miscellany, or Pocket Library

If you have been a reader of my blog for a while, you will know that I love houses. In fact, I have a life-long fascination with buildings and architecture of all sorts.

So I was enchanted when I found some illustrations from a little book titled
The Architect and Builder's Miscellany, or Pocket Library, Containing Original Picturesque Designs in Architecture, for Cottages, Farm, Country, and Town Houses, Public Building, Temples, Green Houses, Bridges, Lodges, and Gates for Entrances to Parks and Pleasure Grounds, Stables, Monumental Tombs, Garden Seats, etc.
I found the drawings in the New York Public Library Digital Gallery, a terrific resource for anyone interested in period pictures of all types.  With a little research, I discovered that the author of the book, and its illustrator, was Charles Middleton [1756-c.1818]. He was an architect and a surveyor, and had done work for the Prince of Wales on Carlton House. He presented designs over several years at the Society of Artists and the Royal Academy. Middleton published at least four books of designs and this was one of his most popular, first published in 1799, and still advertised, in the Edinburgh Review, in 1827.

I found a copy of the book at Sims Reed Rare Books. It was available for purchase at £1800 and it seems to have sold! A rare book indeed...

The illustrations at NYPL are all house plans, and they run the gamut from classic architecture to the cottage ornee to the downright eccentric. Here is a little folly with five rooms on the main floor, and an unknown number above. I love the conical thatched roof, and just look at the way the rooms are fitted in the circular space!

Then there is the classic design of a small home at the top of this post (its most attractive feature, I think, is the lovely fanlight over the door) and a larger classical house below. This rather austere house has a standard floor plan except for the 'Dressing Room' which connects to the Dining Room and the Library. What is that about?
The cottage ornee below seems to have a charming ground floor plan that offers all the neccessities of space, and the upper rooms must have been very interesting. Unfortunately the scan is a little pale, but again there is a 'Dressing Room' to the right of the front entrance just before you enter the Study. Is this the equivalent of our 'powder room'?
The elevation of the last house that I will offer is, I think, less than pleasing but the floor plan has its merits. The small room labelled "Cabinet" has distinct possibilities for reading, writing and retreat.
I notice that each floor plan offers an "Anti-room" on the Ground Floor. I am wondering if this was an innovation that only Charles Middleton included in his houses, or if it was a well-known addition to the Georgian house. My copy of "Georgian and Regency Houses Explained" does not mention such a thing.

 I wish that there were plans of the upper floors in this book, but there were only 60 aquatint plates, and I expect space was at a premium given the quantity of structures listed in the extended title of the book. I would love to see the other types of illustrations--Monumental Tombs? Gates for Entrances to Parks and Pleasure Grounds?

Nothing fires my imagination like a building which my characters can inhabit. Am I alone in this? Do you love houses?

'Til  next time,



Anne Gallagher said...

I DO love houses and architecture. I think if I had to choose another profession other than writer, architect would be it.

These pictures are so wonderful. And yes, how strange to have a dressing room next to the dining room. I wonder if it was meant as a gentler way to say "retiring room"?

Great post as usual Lesley-Anne.

Lesley-Anne McLeod said...

You certainly could be right, Anne. Although the rooms designated are quite spacious, bigger than necessity would require :)

Thanks for visiting!