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Landscape Architecture


Les parcs et jardins Landscape architecture and garden design--the artificial modification of the terrain--are among the most ancient of human endeavors, deriving from the desire to impose order and harmony upon the natural world. To this day landscape gardening and design are employed for both private and public pleasure, from the modest suburban home to the vast aristocratic estate, and from the town square to city parks and greenbelts. The earliest extant plan for a garden dates from ca. 1400 BC Egypt, and depicts a very symmetrical, tightly enclosed pattern. The pattern of enclosed courtyard gardens is also seen in many Greek and Roman examples, but there was also a tradition of large, open garden landscapes as reflected in the terraced gardens of Babylon, the Greek sacred landscape, and Roman villa garden.
The medieval period turned garden design inward to an era of cloisters and private, walled environments, evidence of which is found in illuminated manuscripts and miniatures. The Renaissance revival in landscape design is reflected first in the Italian gardens of the mid-fifteenth century where the outdoor environment began to be treated as an extension of a building. The Italian formal garden dominated European garden landscaping for almost 300 years. The elaborate, geometric designs of French gardens, the Dutch use of topiary, and the English emphasis on grass lawns and gravel walks, were regional variations on the Italian symmetrical theme. Garden plans and books on gardens and garden design from the early sixteenth to the early eighteenth centuries all reflect this taste for the structured and the formal.

By the 1730s, a new aesthetic based on organic forms and the irregularity of naturally occurring landscapes began to be advocated in England. The impact of this new approach to landscape design was dramatic and swift. This is particularly evident in the vast transformation of the gardens at Stowe, Birminghamshire, from the original enclosed, geometrical design to a sprawling, irregular form with undulating lawns, meandering streams, irregularly shaped ponds, and encircling woodland. By the 1740s Stowe was the epitome of the new "picturesque" style. By mid-century le jardin anglais had firmly established itself throughout Europe. In the later part of the century, publications promoting the natural theory of landscaping began to appear, including George Mason's Essay on Design in Gardening; first published in 1768; Thomas Whately's popular Observations on Modern Gardening, first appearing in 1770, and Horace Walpole's Essay on Modern Gardening , which first appeared as a separate work accompanied by a French translation in 1785. Writings on the natural English style reached their apex in several works by Humphry Repton, illustrated by fine aquatint prints and an ingenious system of overlays, culminating in the 1816 publication of his Fragments on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening.

Landscape gardening in the United States generally followed the example of English aesthetics, and was much influenced by the changes occurring in British landscape theory during the eighteenth century. A. J. Downing's first book, A Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening, first published in 1841, was the first American work devoted to the topic. The book had a tremendous influence on the course of American landscape architecture over the next century, going through numerous editions and revisions throughout the nineteenth century, and edited and updated by Frank A. Waugh in 1921. Downing's theories left their mark on many subsequent American landscape architects and writers, including Frederic Law Olmstead, Frank J. Scott, and Franklin Reuben Elliott.

The development of landscaped cemeteries in the 1830s and the emergence of public parks were also influenced by landscape design. Visits to early cemeteries such as Mount Auburn in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Laurel Hill in Philadelphia were popular recreational activities for the city dweller. Sites for these cemeteries were selected for their tranquility and restful appearance, and were enhanced by selected plantings, irregular pathways, and funerary monuments and sculptures. The need for a city park system grew from the increasingly vanishing landscapes of the cemeteries as they gradually began to fulfill their primary roles as grave sites. These parks were faithfully designed in accordance with principles formulated in the eighteenth century by British landscape naturalists, espoused in this country by Downing, and followed by the architects of public landscape spaces such as Frederick Law Olmstead, one of the most prolific of public park designers in this country.

Special Collections' holdings in gardens and landscape architecture number over 300 titles published from the early seventeenth century to the present. The collection is fairly evenly distributed among American, British, French, and northern European imprints, including Germany and the Netherlands. Representation of American publications is strongest between 1850 and 1930. The strength of British works represented in the collection falls between 1760 and 1820, the years framing the development and maturation of the English informal garden, offering an opportunity for studying its influence on American design practice. In addition, Special Collections holds over 100 works relating to the design and history of nineteenth-century American cemeteries and public parks, providing an additional resource for studying the development of American garden and landscape architecture.

Jan Vredeman de Vries (b. 1527).
Hortorum Viridariorumque Elegantes & Multiplicis Formae. . . . Antwerp: P. Gallaeus, 1583.


André Mollet (d. 1666).
Le Jardin de Plaisir. Stockholm: H. Kayser, 1651.


Peter Schenk (1661-1715).
Villa Regiae Risvicanae. Amsterdam: s.n., 1697.


Paolo Bartolomeo Clarici.
Istoria e Coltura Delle Piante. . . . Venice: Andrea Poletti, 1726.


Versailles Illustrated. London: John Bowles, 1726.

The gardens at Versailles were designed by André Le Nôtre. The gardens' geometry and monumental scale had a lasting influence on formal garden design.


Batty Langley (1696-1751).
New Principles of Gardening. London: A. Bettesworth, J. Batley, J. Pemberton, T. Bowles, J. Clarke, and J. Bowles, 1728.

An influential book in promoting the new informal style of garden landscaping. Langley's garden designs combine the use of formal and informal elements.


[Thomas Whately] (d. 1772).
Observations on Modern Gardening. Dublin: James Williams, 1770.

This work on the natural theory of landscape design was also published in two London editions this same year.


Stowe: a Description of the Magnificent House and Gardens of. . . Richard Greenville Temple. . . . London: J. and F. Rivington, B. Seeley, and T. Hodgkinson, 1773.


Horace Walpole (1717-1797).
Essay on Modern Gardening - Essai sur l'Art des Jardins Modernes. . . Traduit en FraÃcois par M. Le Duc de Nivernois. Strawberry Hill: T. Kirgate, 1785.

Gift of Mrs. C. Lalor Burdick


George Mason (1735-1806).
An Essay on Design in Gardening First Published in MDCCLXVIII. London: C. Roworth, 1795.


Humphry Repton (1752-1818).
Sketches and Hints on Landscape Gardening. London: W. Bulmer and Co., 1794.

Repton's first publication on landscape gardening.


Andrew Jackson Downing (1815-1852).
A Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening. . . . New York & London: Wiley and Putnam, 1841.


Guide to Laurel Hill Cemetery, Near Philadelphia
. Philadelphia: C. Sherman, 1844.


Rudolph Siebeck (1812-1878).
Die Bildende Gartenkunst in Ihren Modernen Formen. Leipzig: F. Voigt, 1853.


Frank J. Scott (1828-1919).
The Art of Beautifying Suburban Home Grounds of Small Extent. . . . New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1870.


Jacob Weidenmann.
Beautifying Country Homes. New York: Orange Judd and Co., 1870.

First American landscape book published with color plates.


François Duvillers (b. 1807).
Les Parcs et Jardins. Paris: F. Duvillers, 1871-1878. 2 volumes.


Report of the Board of Park Commissioners. Wilmington, Del.: 1895- .

In 1883, the advice of Frederic Law Olmstead was sought on the most favorable site for a public park in Wilmington. In his report of December of that year, Olmstead recommended the Brandywine valley and Mount Salem. Over the next decade land was bought by or given to the city for its park system. Samuel Canby, the park system's first landscape engineer, consulted often with Olmstead on landscape design, and in 1890 Olmstead designed the Kentmere Parkway.


Storrs & Harrison Co.
How to Landscape the Home Grounds. Painesville, Oh.: Storrs & Harrison Co. [ca. 1930].


Eleanour Sinclair Rohde (1880-1948).
Manuscript plan for an herb garden, signed, June 1945, 7 pp.

British gardener, gardening historian, and horticultural writer, Eleanour Sinclair Rohde was well-known for her garden of uncommon herb and vegetable varieties, and also designed an herb garden for Lullingstone Castle in Kent, England.

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Last modified: 12/21/10

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