Gardens & Landscapes

Capability Brown: Designing the English Landscape

In celebration of his 300th year, a definitive survey of Capability Brown’s most famous gardens and landscapes in Britain. Widely acknowledged as the most influential landscape designer of his age, Lancelot "Capability" Brown was to England what Frederick Law Olmsted was to America—responsible for shaping the very ideal of the nation’s parkland. Brown’s ambition was to bring out of a landscape the best of its potential rather than impose his own ideas upon it. His designs are organic, weaving gestures of color and perspective into the features that the country already afforded. So natural are his designs, and so perfectly do they complement the houses within them, that for many a Capability Brown landscape is the epitome of the English estate. His gardens and parklands—as much as the houses themselves—would become icons of British country life. Published to coincide with the tercentenary of his birth, this remarkable book illuminates fifteen of Brown’s most celebrated landscapes. To love the great English estates is to love the settings with which Brown surrounded them—from idyllic parklands at Milton and Broadlands to structured landscapes around iconic houses at Blenheim, Burghley, Wakefield, and Chatsworth. With photography commissioned for the book, and including rarely seen archival drawings that shed light on Brown’s process, this book serves as a guide to Britain’s most beloved landscapes and an exploration of the masterful mind behind their creation.

About The Author

John Phibbs set up the Capability Brown 1716–2016 Partnership and is a renowned garden historian and author with more than thirty years’ experience in the management and restoration of historic landscapes.

Joe Cornish is an award-winning landscape photographer and an honorary fellow of the Royal Photographic Society with a studio and gallery in Yorkshire, England.

  • Publish Date: October 25, 2016
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Category: Gardening - Garden Design
  • Publisher: Rizzoli
  • Trim Size: 9 x 12
  • Pages: 280
  • US Price: $65.00
  • CDN Price: $85.00
  • ISBN: 978-0-8478-4883-6


"In an impressive and gorgeous volume, CAPABILITY BROWN: Designing the English Landscape (Rizzoli, $65), the renowned garden historian John Phibbs argues that Brown created a great art form that, “at its best, was consciously intended to go unnoticed.” It’s no surprise, then, that he became known as 'the Shakespeare of Gardening.'"
The New York Times

". . .the gardens of Blenheim and Chatsworth come to life in Capability Brown: Designing the English Landscape (Rizzoli)."

"Fascinating reproductions of rarely seen archival drawings of Brown’s landscape plans shed light on Brown’s thinking and designs, enhancing the book. In one case there is a photograph of a bridge accompanied by the original design drawing of the bridge done by James Paine. Seeing the two side by side is a treat. Accompanying the essays are sumptuous photographs. Joe Cornish is the excellent principal photographer, but the book includes the work of fine other fine photographers, including Andrew Lawson. These images celebrate the soft English light while capturing the natural, parkland beauty of Brown’s designs. The double-page spreads in particular have a painterly feel, evoking the work of 17th century romantic landscape painters such Claude Lorrain and Nicolas Poussin. Some have an epic quality with dramatic, lowering, thunder-cloud–filled skies, others feature the pale blue skies of a pretty English summer day. The photographs are a fitting tribute to the man who gardened on a grand scale. Phipps writes that Capability Brown, “liked to call himself a ‘place-maker,’ but was more often described as a magician. That sense of magic and mystery persists as we try to understand Brown today.” This book certainly captures the magic." 
New York Journal of Books

"In word and image, this book matches Brown’s achievement. It should inspire every landscape designer and encourage the rest of us to hop on the next plane to Britain." 

"There’s the new ‘Capability Brown’ garden book from Rizzoli, which is fantastic." 

"Praised for his organic gardens and parklands, British landscape designer Capability Brown takes top billing in this eponymous hardcover by historian John Phibbs. The text, published to commemorate Brown’s 300th birthday, illuminates 15 of his grandest designs through vivid photography and rare archival drawings."
—Boston Home Magazine

Author Bookshelf: John Phibbs, Joe Cornish