The inexorably linked careers of Jan Kip and Leonard Knyff trace a specialty of engraved views of English country houses, represented in minute detail from the bird's-eye view that was a long-established pictorial convention for topography. Their major work was Britannia Illustrata: Or Views of Several of the Queens Palaces, as Also of the Principal seats of the Nobility and Gentry of Great Britain, Curiously Engraven on 80 Copper Plates, London (1707, published in the winter of 1708 – 09). The volume is among the most important English topographical publications of the 18th century. Architecture is rendered with great care and detail, and the settings of parterres and radiating avenues driven through woods or planted across fields, garden paths gates and toolsheds are illustrated with meticulous detail, and amusingly staffed with figures and horses, coaches pulling into forecourts, water-craft on rivers, filled with the delight native to the Low Countries' traditions. Some of the plates are maps, in the Siennese "map perspective," a feat of imagination in a world that had not conceived even of a balloon ascension.
Johannes Kip (1653 - 1722) was a Dutch draughtsman, engraver and print dealer who was briefly a pupil of Bastiaen Stopendaal (1636-1707), 1668 – 1670, before setting up on his own; his earliest dated engravings are from 1672. After producing works for the court of William of Orange in Amsterdam, Kip followed William and Mary to London and settled in St. John Street in Westminster, where he conducted a thriving printselling business. He also worked for various London publishers producing engravings after such artists as Francis Barlow (c. 1626-1704) and Caius Gabriel Cibber (1630-1700), largely for book illustrations. His most important works were the large fold-out folio illustrations for Britannia Illustrata, 1708; for the 65 folio plates he engraved for the antiquary Sir Robert Atkyns' The Ancient and Present State of Glostershire, 1712 (1st edition), and for Le Nouveau Th tre de la Grande Bretagne ou description exacte des palais de la Reine, et des Maisons les plus considerables des des Seigneurs & des Gentilshommes de la Grande Bretagne, 1715, an extended reprint in collaboration with other artists.
Not all the gentlemen's seats were as up-to-date as Hampton Court
: many-gabled Jacobean Toddington Manor
, with the remnant of its moat, its parish church and half-timbered outbuildings contrasted with its fine, brand-new formal garden.
Leonard Knyff (1650 - 1721) was a Dutch draughtsman and painter, who collaborated with Kip to produce views of country houses and gardens for Britannia Illustrata and Le Nouveau Th tre.
The topographical images of Kip and Knyff are significant for providing reliable illustrations of the development of the formal English garden in the Dutch-French style. Their documentary information for this period in British architecture and landscape design is particularly valued because, within a generation, the formal gardens seen in these views would be swept away in favor of the pastoral compositions, derived from idealized landscapes of painters such as Claude Lorrain, that characterize the "naturalistic" English landscape gardens.
In the later 20th century many of the Kip and Knyff views were hand-coloured, as monochrome landscapes proved increasingly harder to sell in the market.