This panoramic view or ‘prospect’ of Reading in Berkshire shows the town as it was in the early 18th century. The view is dominated by a gnarled tree in shadow in the foreground and the towers of three churches in Reading. Above each significant building or structure is a number, which refers to the key below. No. 14 is the remains of Reading Abbey, which seems remarkably unchanged from its appearance today.
This engraving is part of a series of prospects of England and Wales, produced by brothers Samuel and Nathaniel Buck between 1728 and 1753. The brothers undertook tours around England and Wales every year, producing detailed views of the locations they visited. They would typically advertise the planned engraving in the local press before they arrived to draw the view, in the hope of attracting potential subscribers. The prospects were published over a number of years and were made available to non-subscribers only after all the impressions were published.
Text below ‘The South Prospect of Reading’ describes the town as follows:
‘...The Town is Populous, and the Woollen Manufacture has been carried on here with great Industry & Success; but the principal Trade is now Malting and Meal.’
Brothers Samuel and Nathaniel Buck were the leading British topographical draughtsmen and engravers of the 18th century. They produced several hundred drawings and engravings, including 87 ‘Prospects’ of England and Wales. The engravings are important visual records of the appearance of British urban landscapes prior to the Industrial Revolution. In many cases, the places depicted have since disappeared or changed beyond recognition. Their dedication in recording almost every corner of the country has left modern viewers with an invaluable record of Britain’s past. As demand for their prints fell away, Nathaniel took over a furniture business, while Samuel tried several professions, including teaching draughtsmanship and cleaning pictures.
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