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Book Notes, January 2021

January 31, 2021

An advertising email received this morning from Pottery Barn asks: What are some creative ways to utilize wall space? Our answer, for the most part: bookcases! This is also our answer to the question of utilizing floor space.


Wayne writes: Not in any particular order, here are books I read during January:

Mystery Mile by Margery Allingham. Macfadden, 1967 printing (first published 1930). The first full Albert Campion mystery. Rather clumsy by today’s standards, and compared to some of the later Allinghams.

Merton College Library: An Illustrated History by Julia C. Walworth. Bodleian Library, 2020. An attractive book on the oldest library in continuous use at a university (Merton College, Oxford was founded in 1264). Christina and I did some work there when writing The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide.

Beetles The Illustrators 2020 coverThe Illustrators: The British Art of Illustration 1865–2019 and The Illustrators: The British Art of Illustration 1894–2020. Chris Beetles, 2019 and 2020. When we can, time and global pandemics permitting, we like to see the exhibitions at London art dealer Beetles, and as we have a keen interest in illustrations, we’ve picked up the mostly annual catalogues for Beetles’ Illustrators shows. Each is well written and has many good reproductions. These can also be read online, but well, we’re book collectors, so we have the physical volumes.

True to Life: British Realist Painting in the 1920s & 1930s by Patrick Elliott and Sacha Llewellyn. National Galleries of Scotland, 2017.

Evelyn de Morgan Oil Paintings. Compiled and edited by Catherine Gordon. De Morgan Foundation, 1996.

The Edwardians and Their Houses: The New Life of Old England by Timothy Brittain-Catlin. Lund Humphries, 2020. I bought this on the recommendation of a review in the Voysey Society journal, but expected it, despite the honest emphasis in the title, to have more on the houses and less on the Edwardians. ‘This book’, the blurb says, ‘is the first radical overview of the period since the 1970s, and focuses on how the leading circle of the Liberal Party, who built incessantly and at every scale, influenced the pattern of architecture across England.’ I did enjoy the section on the development at this time of magazines such as Country Life and Architectural Review.

Defending the Rock: How Gibraltar Defeated Hitler by Nicholas Rankin. Faber & Faber, 2017. Now here the title definitely misinforms. A good part of this unnecessarily thick book, entertainingly written though it is, deals with other events in World War II, only some of which are needed to treat to put the doings on Gibraltar in context; and Gibraltar didn’t defeat Hitler in the sense of direct, sustained resistance to attack. In fact, one of Hitler’s biggest blunders was that he didn’t take Gibraltar when he could (before he turned his sights on Russia), thus cutting off the Mediterranean to British support for Malta or Egypt.

Enchanted Norman Rockwell Museum catalogue coverEnchanted: A History of Fantasy Illustration. Edited by Jesse Kowalski. Abbeville Press, 2020. Published for an exhibition scheduled for this summer at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass. Christina and I were attracted to this book for obvious reasons, but were disappointed. It defines fantasy much too broadly, from fairy tales, mythology, and the Bible to Tarzan and Star Wars, much of the focus is narrowly on illustration of the late twentieth century, and the text is often on the level of Wikipedia. But it has many images I had not seen before.

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