VERSAILLES -- Manuscript plans of the gardens of Versailles, in watercolour. [France: ca.1688-1711].
4° (187 x 148mm). Large folding general plan and 24 double-page plans of details, each with lettered identification and scale, with locations of sculpture, fountains and vases marked, each drawing ruled with black line; on guards. (Slight tear at fold of general plan.) French 18th-century mottled calf, gilt spine, marbled endpapers, gilt edges (spine edges worn).
These watercolour plans of the gardens of Versailles depict the "petit parc" in a state corresponding most closely to the final vision of its chief architect, André le Notre (d.1700). The "gardener of kings and king of gardeners", Le Notre submitted preliminary sketches for the redesign of the gardens to Louis XIV about 1662 and work began in earnest by 1663 with earthworks and the creation of huge parterres, avenues and pools. By 1688 the main features of the garden were complete, and they remained largely unaltered for the next fifty years. Le Notre's garden design was highly influential, and the gardens widely celebrated. Louis XIV revelled in their beauty and imagination, staging elaborate fêtes and even producing guide books; Louis XIV himself wrote a guide to them for visitors (G. Walton, Louis XIV's Versailles, p.29). The drawings in the present album are undated and on unwatermarked paper, but they represent the garden after 1688, after the creation of the Colonade and Salle du Bal, but before 1714, by which time the Galerie d'Eau had been refashioned into the Salle des Maronniers. The present manuscript plans are carefully drawn and quite accurate when compared to contemporary published works, and they are in some aspects quite detailed, even indicating garden statuary with "F" (figure), "V" (vase), and "T" (therme).