Topographical Designs for British Illustrated Pocket Diaries, Changing Landscape, and the Nation
My stay at Dumbarton Oaks was extremely rewarding, intellectually and personally. I am grateful to the Garden and Landscape Studies program, the library staff, and the other fellows for creating an enriching atmosphere of collegial exchange. As part of my project on “Topographical Designs for British Illustrated Pocket Diaries, Changing Landscape, and the Nation,” I worked on the unique collection of material relating to the late eighteenth-century landscape gardener Humphry Repton (1752–1818) and generated a narrative on his use of largely unstudied topographical print media. Examining Repton’s topographical designs for William Peacock’s diary-cum-almanac The Polite Repository, I concentrated on a unique album of four hundred cut-out vignettes. My study of the vignettes from The Polite Repository facilitated insights into the ways in which Repton used this publication to popularize his ideas about landscape design. It also demonstrated that, in designing these vignettes, Repton promoted and distributed his work among a much larger audience than he had for his exclusive Red Books (the unique and specially commissioned illustrated volumes containing proposals for the improvement of the country seats of the elite). By the third week of my fellowship, the scope of my project had significantly widened, as I considered vignettes from other illustrated diaries featuring topographical designs. Repton’s role as a popularizer of the picturesque among the middle classes emerged as central to the success not merely of Peacock’s The Polite Repository. His work was genre-defining in that, through the topographical vignette, he made available in visual form the changing landscapes of Britain to a greater number of consumers than ever before.