Thursday, July 26, 2007

Spire Books - Sir Ninian Comper

Sir Ninian Comper
by Anthony Symondson and Stephen Bucknall
Softcover. 336 pp. 29.95 GBP / $60.00 USD
Publisher: Spire Books

Some of you will no doubt recognize the name of Fr. Anthony Symondson, S.J. from some of the comments made here on the NLM by him. Fr. Symondson is considered a leading authority on the architect Sir Ninian Comper. Comper lived from 1864-1960 and was one of the significant ecclesiastical architects of the gothic revival movement. He produced some of the finest examples of gothic revival work which is comparable in greatness to the work of AWN Pugin -- though, unlike Pugin, much of it appears in an Anglican context.

A look at some of Comper's work:

I wished to draw your attention to this particular text which was written primarily by Fr. Symondson and gives a comprehensive look at Comper, his times and his work. Aside from the substantive study of Fr. Symondson, which constitutes about eighty percent of the contents of the book, a complete catalogue of Comper's work, by Stephen Bucknall, is also present which gives in detail the place, date of creation and specific items created by Comper in these locations. Included as well are many historical photos of Comper's work, unspoilt by any later modifications that may have occurred (unlike the photo presented immediately above for example) -- with the only downside being that they are, of course, black and white. Indeed, when I first received the book, my first reaction (as would be the case with any art or architecture book) was to feel it would have been better to have used colour photographs. However, after having browsed colour images of Comper's work, it became clear that there was greater merit and satisfaction to seeing the work of Comper more proximate to how he himself would have designed it, and as it would have appeared in his times. As well, modern colour photographs are easy enough to come by if one wishes to locate them, but historical photographs are far less so.

Notable as well is the inclusion of a text by Comper himself, Of the Atmosphere of a Church.

Now one might be tempted to think that any book on architecture must be a fairly dry sort of affair, but I can attest that as I was leafing through the pages of this book, reading various sections, it became quite difficult to put it down. The text presents all manner of interesting subjects including tie-in's to matters liturgical, or how Comper's reading of a few principle texts of the time and his visit to Rome helped broaden his vision for liturgical art and architecture beyond the gothic revival movement, thus perhaps escaping any kind of needless stylistic absolutism. Yet, fellow gothic revivalists need not be concerned that the book somehow loses focus; the book is a wonderful visual presentation on the "four R's" of the gothic revival:

Riddle posts, Riddle curtains, Reredos' and Rood screens

If you are interested in the gothic revival (and well should we be in my estimation, for it was a truly rich movement and revival) the work of Comper, and this text which presents it, is certainly something you will want to have in your library.

(Do note, North American customers may order locally from the David Brown book company, whose link is available off the Spire Books page. See the title link at the top of this post.)

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