Over the years garden historian John Phibbs has made a huge contribution to knowledge of Wanstead Park, beginning with the landmark Debois Landscape Survey of 1989-90. He is currently working on a definitive book on Lancelot "Capability" Brown which will be published as part of the Tercentenary celebrations this year. The publication will be supported by Historic England, but some of the costs are being raised via crowd-funding.
Although Brown himself did not work at Wanstead, Humphry Repton - usually regarded as his natural successor - produced a major set of proposals for the park in 1813, some of which were acted on by the then owners.
John Phibbs says -
"It has taken me quite by surprise, but I have just been told that you can now pledge yourself to buy a copy of my forth-coming book (Place-making , the art of Capability Brown) and get all sorts of privileges for so doing. This method of publishing is a new departure for Historic England, who have been persuaded to allow me to use a type of crowd-funding with Unbound.
I have taken the Unbound route because, while I feel closest to nature when I am lost in it, walking alone in a kind of reverie, it is also true that the keenest, the most sudden, shafts of understanding can come with some phrase heard in company that sounds and resounds and then rips up yet another cherished prejudice. For that reason this book has always felt like a collaboration. It would have been a disservice to the process of writing - in fact it would have felt dishonest - a betrayal -, had it suddenly appeared in book-shops, wrapped and removed from all the travails of its composition, with no signal of recognition to any of the many many people who have knowingly or unknowingly contributed to its making.
I have therefore already set myself to send each of those with whom I have corresponded over the years an email to remind you that in 2016 we shall all be celebrants in a tercentenary that will reconfigure our understanding of landscape design and what it can do, and will return Brown to something like the pinnacle from which he was thrown down so soon after his death. It will be 300 years since he was born, and that is time enough.
By all means buy the book to save me from a miserable old age, buy it because writing books is jolly hard work and deserves its reward, but I would prefer you to buy it because 2016 is the year in which we can make our mark on England and English landscape. In the words of the great Capability Brown himself: ‘Since it is denied us to live long, let us do something to shew we have lived.’
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