The John Plaw Architectural Collection — Museum-Quality Aquatints of Estate Farmhouses & Farm History

An incredibly rare portfolio featuring architectural plans by John Plaw for the Ferme Ornée, or "decorated farm" from the year 1823. An 18th century word, "Ferme Ornée" describes country estates embellished with picturesque effects and landscapes while maintaining the farm's production. Often, these estates incorporated elements of landscape design and horticulture well-suited for plantations, walks, and parks as demonstrated by this beautiful aquatint engraved collection. Notable figures who embraced Ferme Ornée include Thomas Jefferson, Phillip Southcote, William Shenstone, Marie Antoinette, and Frederick Law Olmstead. Featured within the portfolio are elevations, sectional views and decorative elements of fishing houses, pavilions, shooting lodges, cottages, fences, a dog kennel and more to suggest the beauty and aesthetics of the English garden. The portfolio was printed for J. Taylor of the Architectural Library of London, and printed by S. Gosnell of Little Queen Street, London.

A stunning, important original collection of renderings superbly aquatinted with drypoint and engraving of estate farmhouses and farm-related history by John Plaw. The artistry and craftsmanship provides clear differentiation of areas and materials in the plans and sections, as well as beautiful and artistic elevations with nuance and atmosphere. The original intaglio plate impression has been retained, occasionally evincing the original wiping process prior to the printing in 1823.


John Plaw (1746 - 1820)

Plaw was born in London, England to John and Mary Plaw in 1746. Plaw's interest in architecture had rather humble beginnings when, in his teens, he was apprenticed to Thomas Kaygill, a member of the Tyler's and Bricklayers' Company of London. Plaw became a bricklayer, working from September 1759 until January 1768, at which time he gained freedom by service.

While still an apprentice, Plaw received an architectural award from the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce; his submission, a detailed drawing of Banqueting House in Whitehall, England, provides evidence he intently studied the Palladian movement and classical styles. Plaw continued to refine his skills, developing into a promising architect. In 1774, he completed plans for a circular villa in the Palladian style on Lake Windermere for Thomas English, a coffee merchant. Plaw would come to favor this circular design in the neoclassical style and it would come to influence Plaw's contemporaries, including German architectural historian Christian Ludwig Stieglitz's, who ultimately included Plaw's work in his book of selected drawings. In 1775, Plaw exhibited his first architectural drawings at the Royal Academy of Arts; this would be the first of thirteen exhibitions of his work at the Royal Academy.

Though an accomplished builder and architect in the city of Westminster, Plaw received many of his commissions for country buildings. This focus would become his specialty; in 1795 he moved to Southampton, where he remained for twelve years designing military barracks on the Isle of Wight and designing houses for Albion Place, a planned residential area. In 1807, Plaw immigrated to Prince Edward Island, Canada, becoming an architect to the Island's government and acting as surveyor general during Thomas Wright's absences. Few of his submissions were ever built, and the few that were have been destroyed or demolished. Only three standing structures are currently credited to Plaw.

Plaw's main contribution to architecture and his lasting significance, however, came from his writings; while still in England he published three major works pertaining to the design of country homes. His writings were influential in both Britain and on the European continent, being read by architects, master builders, and members of the gentry. His books also had influence in North America, where a tradition of relying on carpenters and mechanics working from books in rural areas to design and construct buildings existed. It was through pattern books that Palladian, Greek Revival, and neoclassical styles spread, persisting as the early national style. Plaw's and others' promotion of ferme ornée identifies a growing preoccupation with the pastoral, a plentiful landscape at once bountiful and beautiful. Ferme ornée, and Plaw's contributions to it, came to heavily influence the design of both public and private spaces in America, influencing land use, landscape, and home design as the United States began to suburbanize in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.