Reflecting my one year friendship with my book I have following thoughts.
At first it was difficult because I had to change my friendship to another book, because my old one didn’t want to meet me in the library.
So, my meeting with ,a dissertation on oriental gardening’ by Sir William Chambers in the ETH library was quite interesting, I think I’ve never touched such an old book and I guess it was an important first experience.
At first I found it difficult to read any pages of the book but then after a while, after I read the preface, I actually did start to like it.
The book has no pictures which I found a bit sad in the beginning, but I realised it’s easy to read.
Like the title mentions it already, the book is about gardens. Chambers compares Chinese gardens to the European ones. In the preface Chamber writes: “I may therefore, without danger to myself, and it is hoped without offence to others, offer the following account of the Chinese manner of Gardening; which is collected from my own observations in China” (Preface 9) So although he says he doesn’t want to offend anyone, he does trigger the European Gardens and their Gardeners with some quite perky statements.
For example the first sentence of the Dissertation “Amongst the Chinese, Gardening is held in much higher esteem, than it is in Europe. (…) It is not in China, as in Italy and France, where every petty Architect is a Gardener. (…) In China, Gardening is a distinct profession, requiring an extensive study; to the perfection of which few arrive.” (p.13)
One of my favourite passages is where Chambers describes the European Gardens: “The gardens of Italy, France, Germany and Spain, and of all the other countries where the ancient style still prevails, are in general mere cities of verdure: their walks, like streets, all conducted in straight lines, diverge from different large open spaces, resembling public squares; and the hedges with which they are bordered, rise in imitation of walls, adorned with pilasters, niches, windows and doors; or they are cut into colonnades, arcades and porticos: all the detached trees are shaped like obelisks, pyramids and vases. (…) The lakes and rivers, confined by quais of hewn stone, are taught to flow in geometric order…” (Preface 4)
He strongly critiques the European need to try to shape the nature. That the European gardens have the actual structure of a city and the real nature is lost.
So in conclusion, I can say being friends with an old book is quite a weird thought for me, but what I can say that I did enjoy Chambers perkiness and his style of writing. He has a strong opinion and is not shy to write it down.