Birch's Country Seats

William Birch’s second color-plate book, his 1808 Country Seats of the United States, was totally ignored by the Library Company. Incredibly, we did not get a copy until 1979! We received this set of the plates from the book, mounted, from the widow of modern day antiquarian Walter Brenner in 1984.

This was the first color-plate book on American scenery. It used the technique of stipple engraving, where many little dots added tone and texture that combined with hand coloring for a rich effect. The style and technique of the book was fashionable in England, and so was the subject matter. In the early years of the 19th century, Philadelphians with country seats began to beautify their gardens in the English style. The success of Birch’s city views earned him a reputation as a landscape designer, and his Country Seats was in part an advertisement for his services. They document the architecture and setting of several important houses now altered or no longer in existence.


Lansdowne, the seat of the late Wm. Bingham Esq. Pennsylvania.
Mount Sidney, the seat of Genl. John Barker, Pennsylvania.