'A sluggard may dig and hide his talent in the earth
Or at his Presses or Scrap paper sigh
Allart adorns the lot! So pleasing to the eye!’
Thus Johannes Allart (1754-1816), the publisher of the first edition of the Magazijn van tuin-sieraden in 1802, was portrayed in an anonymous poem, and how he adorned the lot is shown in this book. It was compiled by Gijsbert van Laar, about whom we only know that he started a tree nursery in Alkmaar towards the end of the eighteenth century. In his foreword he announces his intention of providing a survey - chiefly inspired by English horticulture - of the way in which the proud owners of gardens can make their ‘moderate and small plots’ look more beautiful and decorative. For ‘what could be a more appropriate relaxation from his work for the imperturbable, industrious and hard-working Dutchman than to devote himself for some days of the week to the quietude of country life'?
In 190 plates Van Laar gives examples of structures, bridges, garden furniture, and sculptures that may transform the traditionally practical Dutch gardens into true gardens of delight. Sometimes planting plans have been included. Every plate has an explication, providing information about where to put the structures, and how to make and use them. A hermitage was, of course, a must, but Van Laar adapted it to the Dutch situation. In Great Britain people might be hired to live as hermits in such dwellings, but for the Netherlands he suggests painting the hermit on his bench or making one of wood and dressing it up.
The book was extremely popular. There were as many as four reprints in the nineteenth century, including the one of which a page is shown here, published in 1831 by Noman in Zaltbommel. It is difficult to ascertain how many of the examples have indeed been built, because many garden ornaments have disappeared in the course of time. A few can still be found, for instance a painted partition of a farm and the ‘log cabin’ on the Elswout estate near Bloemendaal. The chapel-like summer house of Terra Nova, a countryhouse near Loenen aan de Vecht, is also straight from Van Laar. There is no doubt that the book has had an enormous influence on Dutch nineteenth-century gardens.
Magazijn van tuin-sieraden.Getrokken uit de voor-naamste buitenlandsche werken [...] met vele nieuwe platte gronden en sieraden vermeer-derd / G. van Laar. Nieuwe uitg. met 190 platen.Zaltbommel, Joh. Noman en Zoon, 1831. 4º. 1307 D 61, plate 6