Saturday, June 12, 2010

Two Architectural Offerings from Spire Books

Two offerings from the architectural publisher Spire Books came my way a number of months ago, and I have been meaning, ever since, to make brief note of them.

The first is The Stained Glass of A.W.N. Pugin by Stanley A. Shepherd -- a book based upon his doctoral thesis on the same topic.

We are most accustomed to seeing Pugin's work in the area of ecclesiastical architecture and also in relation to his vestment design, metalwork and so on. This book provides a concentrated look at the stained glass work of Pugin and is accounted as "a complete record of Pugin's extraordinary achievements in stained glass design and manufacture."

The publisher continues, noting that the book "shows how Pugin rose to the challenges of creating stained glass in the early Victorian period according to medieval principles; how he worked with leading makers of the day; how he forged a partnership with John Hardman of Birmingham; how this relationship worked; who his clients were; and what he sought to express in the windows."

Wonderfully, the title is filled with spectacular, high quality, full colour photographs of Pugin's stained glass -- a very important feature for a topic as this -- and is accompanied by a 202 page Gazetteer.

The quality of the photographs is matched by the overall quality of the book itself, which is bound as a cloth hardcover with dust jacket, glossy pages throughout, in an oversized format.

The subject of the book itself is bound to be of interest to individuals interested in Pugin, the gothic revival, or the subject of stained glass more generally. It is certainly a "must-have" for anyone interested in any of these subjects.

443 pp. Hardcover. $69.95 USD.

* * *

Closely related, but more broad, is Victorian Architecture: Diversity and Invention by James Stevens Curl.

What I find particularly interesting about this book is that it is not strictly concerned with ecclesiastical subjects. It is indeed concerned with them, showing a number of church interiors and exteriors, but it also presents us with other types of public architecture -- political buildings, railway stations, monuments, etc. -- to private, domestic architecture.

Moreover, while gothic certainly features prominently -- which should hardly come as a surprise given the period and the British focus -- other styles of 19th century architecture are also included -- not to mention a chapter on the pre-Victorian period.

Subjects include: the pre-Victorian background, the rise of Gothic; secularism and urbanism, the Palace of Westminster, Pugin, Ecclesiology, the Round-arched styles, Italian and other influences, Classicism, Tudor, Jacobethan, the Egyptian Revival, and other styles; iron, glass, colour, church-building in the religious contexts, ultramontanism, Anglo-Catholicism and late-Victorian Gothic; 'Queen Anne', Baroque revivals; the Arts and Crafts movement and domestic architecture.

In short, it gives a very thorough consideration of a period of architecture, ecclesiastical or otherwise, which is very proximate to our own experience.

This particular title, as the former, is of the highest quality, likewise being a cloth hardcover with dustjacket, glossy pages and in an oversized format. Unlike the former, this book's illustrations are predominantly black and white, however, given that we are dealing in architectural considerations, this is quite tolerable.

635 pp. Hardcover. $140.00 USD.

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