Preserving Humphry Repton’s Big Reveal

Preserving Humphry Repton’s Big Reveal


Repton was a distinguished 19th-century English landscape gardener who took an revolutionary tactic to illustrating design and style proposals for his clients’ gardens, many of which are compiled in an elaborate gold-tooled leather-based volume titled Fragments on the Principle and Follow of Landscape Gardening (1816).

Humphry Repton, published 1839



I first encountered Fragments when the copy from the museum’s Ryerson and Burnham Libraries arrived at the e book conservation lab. I was questioned to get the job done on the broken go over and quite a few detached foldout illustrations, with the purpose of restoring perform even though retaining the initial supplies, new technology.

In this quantity, Repton’s unique watercolor backyard garden layouts are reproduced as hand-tinted aquatints, with movable paper flaps that are lifted by the reader to expose Repton’s design proposals, creating a impressive visual illustration of the landscape equally prior to and immediately after his proposed interventions.

Here’s how they do the job.

The estate of Robert Andrew, Harlestone Park, Northamptonshire, about 1808, as depicted by Repton


From Fragment Seven. The residence was wrecked in 1939.


In the higher than style, the foldout of Harlestone Park reveals that the entrance was improved, the stables have been eradicated, and a bridge-like construction (at the proper facet) was extra to the highway to make the pool show up as a river. In addition, trees were being removed not by Repton’s workers, but when a “furious storm of wind tore up by the roots eighty-seven of the greatest Elms, and only a person Oak creating accurately the outcome of enhancement which I experienced predicted, but experienced not dared to advise.”

All around 1814, Repton proposed to alter the grounds of the Beaudesert estate (beneath) by building courtyards, hothouses, and terraces to different its gardens from the encompassing forest. The most extraordinary alteration would have been eliminating big trees from a ravine and damming adjacent streams to generate a modest lake, as exposed below by lifting the flap. Even while Repton did dare propose getting rid of trees this time, the style was hardly ever executed.

The estate of the To start with Earl of Uxbridge, Beaudesert, Staffordshire, about 1813, first presented in Repton’s proposal of 1814


From Fragment Eleven. This style was not executed and the residence was afterwards demolished.


other interesting characteristics

Tint Manual

Treating this quantity, like any item, nurtures an personal knowing of the get the job done, and with Fragments I had the option to notice the extreme total of labor that went into its creation. For occasion, Repton provides the fashionable reader the unusual gift of explicitly outlining his coloring system in the e book alone. In Fragment Twelve, titled “Concerning Colours,” Repton discusses his experiments of colour theory and features specific directions for the artisans who coloured the aquatints in Fragments by hand. In his phrases:

“As the Plates in my previous do the job used a wonderful range of females and young children in colouring them, I expect to render the system substantially far more simple in this present do the job, by the next recommendations given to the printer and colourer.”

Hand-tinted colour chart exhibiting Repton’s ideas on coloration idea



Repton continues: “The Plates to be printed in a bluish-gray ink (this is the neutral tint for the light-weight and shade of the Landscape) the colourer to clean in the sky with blue or violet, &c. in accordance to every single sketch also going about the distances with the exact same color then clean the foregrounds and center distances with crimson, orange, or yellow, copying the drawings and when dry, wash about with blue, to create the greens in the center distances: this being finished as a lifeless colouring a handful of touches with the hand of the grasp and a harmonizing tint to soften the total, will develop all the result envisioned from a colored print.”

The guidebook underneath delivers a variation on the ahead of and immediately after concept, with directions on coloring a landscape soon after the sun has risen (left) and at early morning twilight in advance of the solar rises (appropriate). As Repton explains, the two landscapes “represent the exact scene in advance of and right after sunlight-rise that is, just before and right after the all-natural procedure of colouring takes area.”


Typesetting and the Printing Method

In several countries prior to the late 19th century, style for printing was designed by means of a laborious method wherein one character was carved by hand out of steel, then pressed into a mildew known as a matrix. Specific pieces of kind have been then cast from the matrix using an alloy of lead, tin, and antimony (an ingredient located in minerals and alloyed with other metals to enhance their hardness and energy). This method was repeated to make a comprehensive set of letters and related characters—a font.


The metallic people have been established, piece by piece, into terms, traces, paragraphs, and web pages. Groups of pages have been then put onto the bed of a printing press, inked up, and printed by hand. Delicate clues that position to typesetting and printing processes are scattered throughout Fragments, as noticed down below.



As a conservation technician, I concentrate on the planning and mounting of textbooks, periodicals, and archival elements for exhibitions, as nicely as the preservation and stabilization of our collections, such as harmless housing and negligible cure to stabilize weakened objects. Contrary to some performs of art, books are meant to be managed and manipulated, and this inherent excellent normally contributes to their disrepair. Problems to a binding not only influences its visual appeal, but its perform.

To stabilize and implement the weak areas of the go over of Fragments, skinny levels of Japanese kozo paper, a materials acknowledged for its strength and balance, ended up used with paste. The resulting paper fills displayed their very own healing mother nature, resembling bandages or casts, just before being toned with thinned acrylic paints to match the leather-based.


Though a thoroughly functioning binding is a very important component of any book, addressing the damaged foldouts was similarly critical for the reason that of their importance to Repton’s practice. Kozo paper was employed on the interior joints and on the sensitive hinges of the illustrated foldouts, restoring their vary of motion and purpose.


parting feelings

Performing closely with Fragments has not only uncovered to me its relevance to both equally the record of landscape layout and book output, it has deepened my appreciation of typography, printing history, the materiality of publications, and the comprehending that textbooks can be functions of artwork. It also provides residence to me how artists and designers like Repton employed accessible technological know-how to existing and market their operate the exact same way we use digital technological innovation to promote our personal work now. His meticulous and revolutionary scientific studies of light-weight and coloration captured moments in time, true and imagined, that we can keep on to admire nowadays.

—Pamela Olson, conservation technician, guides, Conservation and Science


A single past look by the window at Barningham



Fragments on the Principle and Practice of Landscape Gardening, housed among the prosperous collections of publications on art, architecture, and layout at the Ryerson and Burnham Libraries, was previous exhibited at the Art Institute in 2015 for A Picturesque Ideal: The Art of Landscape and Backyard garden Structure. Repton’s reserve also serves as a valued useful resource for the University of the Art Institute’s background of architecture courses.



Repton, Humphry, and Repton, J. Adey. Fragments on the Concept and Apply of Landscape Gardening. London: Printed by T. Bensely and Son, Bolt Court docket, Fleet Road for J. Taylor, at the Architectural Library, Superior Holborn, 1816.

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