"Elysium Britannicum, or The Royal Gardens"


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John Evelyn
Edited by John E. Ingram
480 pages, 86 black-and-white illustrations, $69.95 cloth

It is not often that a major work of scholarship is published 350 years after it was first composed, but the University of Pennsylvania Press is delighted to offer John Evelyn’s “Elysium Britannicum, or the Royal Gardens” in book form for the first time.

Evelyn was a garden designer, a noted author and translator of garden books, and a founding member of the Royal Society in 1660, where experimental science fueled the changing intellectual debate.

Over the course of forty years, Evelyn produced a rich document, an assemblage of the known horticultural knowledge and wisdom of the 17th century. Evelyn interlaced his work with practical, literary, and philosophical approaches to landscape architecture, creating the first large-scale encyclopedic work on the science and art of gardening.

Evelyn never saw his great work published. Now, in an impressive transcription, John E. Ingram, chair of the department of special and area studies collections at the George A. Smathers Libraries of the University of Florida, makes the document — of which only a single folio volume remains — accessible to a wide range of scholars and enthusiasts.

Complete with Evelyn’s extensive marginalia, interlineations, and tipped-in addenda, the manuscript is expertly organized by Ingram to preserve the meaningful complexity of Evelyn’s original. Since the “Elysium Britannicum” was composed over a long period of time, Ingram’s transcription reveals the challenge Evelyn faced writing for — and in — a rapidly evolving intellectual culture. The book also contains many of Evelyn’s own illustrations, including drawings of garden layouts, diagrams of inventions for plant and tree cultivation, and plans for the artificial and natural embellishment of the land, all of which were to contribute to the beauty and utility of the gardens.

—University of Pennsylvania Press

 

Originally published on October 12, 2000