topographical artists

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The early histories in †the antiquarian tradition were often illustrated by prints. In the 17th century the fashion developed for commissioned drawings of country houses and views of London, particularly by Dutch artists. Knyff and Kip's bird's‐eye views of country houses were gathered together for publication in Britannia Illustrata (1707). In the 18th century Samuel and Nathaniel Buck drew numerous ‘prospects’ of towns and major buildings. Under the influence of Romanticism, in the late 18th and early 19th centuries both professional and amateur artists sought picturesque views, which often incorporated historic buildings. Their usual medium was watercolours, which were particularly suited to working outdoors. Many of these artists were concerned to depict a building accurately, though artistic rather than historical purposes were paramount. They included such notable figures as John Buckler (1770–1851), John Chessell Buckler (1793–1894), and John Sell Cotman (1782–1842) (see also Norwich school of artists). Paintings and drawings which aimed at accuracy are now a valuable historic source for buildings which have been demolished or altered; they are a particularly useful record of parish churches before Victorian restoration or rebuilding (see historic churches). During the 19th century many local artists painted street scenes and depicted local industries and crafts; these, too, are an invaluable record before the age of photography.

M. W. Barley, A Guide to British Topographical Collections (1974), lists many of the paintings, drawings, and prints that are now housed in national and local record offices. The largest depository is the Manuscripts Department of the British Library. A few topographical prints in the Map Library as well as some in the former Department of Printed Books are catalogued individually in the Catalogue of Printed Maps, but generally it is wise to use secondary sources such as J. R. Abbey, Scenery of Great Britain and Ireland in Aquatint and Lithography, 1770–1860 (1952), to trace illustrations to printed books in the Library. A bibliography of such secondary sources useful for identifying topographic illustrations is available on the Maps collections web pages. Material which is unique to the British Library, such as collections of single sheets or extra‐illustrated volumes, are currently being catalogued individually.

See also Merlyn Holloway, A Bibliography of Nineteenth‐Century British Topographical Books with Steel Engravings (1977), and Ronald Russell, Guide to British Topographical Prints (1979).

http://www.bl.uk/collections/maps.html British Library collections.

Subjects: History.

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