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Books: Holiday Hoard

11 minute read

Anybody who gets a gift book for Christmas may conclude that a thousand pictures are almost too much for words. As usual, the gift volumes offered this year emphasize photographs and reproductions; and they are, on the whole, delights to the eye. A few of the volumes also challenge the mind, thanks to out-of-the-way subjects, and many of them certainly challenge the checkbook. These are the standouts, graded by price:

Over $30

THE KARIYE DJAMI by Paul A. Underwood. 1,208 pages. Pantheon. $55 for the boxed set of three volumes. After the Turkish conquest of Constantinople in 1453, the Turks plastered over the frescoes and mosaics in the Church of the Monastery of the Chora, perched on a hillside above the Bosporus. It served devout Moslems as the Mosque of Kariye Djami until 1948, when the building was secularized and the Byzantine Institute of the U.S. began the delicate work of cleaning and restoring the art works. Volume I contains a historical introduction and a description of the mosaics and frescoes, which are pictured in Volumes II and III. It is a magnificently rendered work; the free-flowing figures, the bold and imaginative use of color and the naiveté and charm of some subjects do much to support those art historians who claim that the Italian Renaissance was fathered by exiled Byzantine painters.

THE COUNCIL by Lothar Wolleh. 121 pages. Viking. $38.50. An oversized (17 in. by 13 in.), baroquely beautiful record of Vatican II. The text, succinct and printed in large type, is not particularly arresting, but the color photos are.

FRENCH DRAWINGS by Maurice Serullaz. 232 pages. New York Graphic Society. $37.50. An engaging trip through 19th century France as seen by artists from Prud’hon to Daumier. The book includes three drawings by Novelist Victor Hugo, who painted as fast and furiously as he wrote— leaving behind about 450 pictures when he died. Hugo’s riverscape is delicate and brooding, his ample nude is created with a few bold strokes. Other subjects range from classical to genre, and, typically, the plates begin with a love scene and end with a disputation between doctors as death steals away with their patient.

$20 to $30

MOTOR CARS OF THE GOLDEN PAST by Ken W. Purdy. 216 pages. Atlantic-Little, Brown. $30. A nostalgic look at the days when now-vanished beauties such as the Apperson Jack Rabbit, the Pierce Arrow, the Willis Sainte Claire and the Stutz Bearcat tore up American roads. The vintage year was 1929, with its Kissel White Eagle, the Graham-Paige 837 with skirted fenders, the boat-tailed Auburn roadster and the dual-cowled Duesenberg phaeton. Park a while and reminisce.

SPAIN, A HISTORY IN ART by Bradley Smith. 296 pages. Simon & Schuster. $30. An explosion of color that richly and often wittily tells the complicated story of Spain’s long journey from obscurity (TIME, Jan. 21). The somber Iberian chord is struck again and again—in El Greco’s haunted saints and cities, Goya’s grim disasters of war, processions of penitents flogging themselves and one another. Appropriately, the final plate is Picasso’s brush drawing of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.

BONNARD by Annette Vaillant. 230 pages. New York Graphic Society. $27.50. A cheerful, gossipy book embellished with 53 color plates, 92 black-and-white photographs and 79 line drawings by Pierre Bonnard, a painter who looked like a postal clerk on the point of tears. Bonnard was, in fact, a failed lawyer who fell in with artists in Paris, and never recovered until he died at 79. His range was nearly as wide as his lifespan: Paris posters resembling those of Toulouse-Lautrec, portraits of midinettes with the geisha gestures of Hiroshige figures, pointillistic experiments with gossamer landscapes, indolent nudes. In the preface, Critics Jean Cassou and Raymond Cogniat try to define Bonnard’s place in modern art. Their conclusion: his true place is “outside time.”

TWO GREAT MASTERS OF UKIYO-E (2 vols.). East-West Center Press. $25. Wood-block prints by two Japanese artists. The Hokusai series is “The Thirty Six Views of Mount Fuji,” while Hiroshige celebrates the joys and troubles of the road in the early 1800s.

ROMAN AFRICA IN COLOR by Roger Wood and Sir Mortimer Wheeler. 160 pages. McGraw-Hill. $25. A tour of dead cities washed by the Mediterranean, with their groves of white columns, deserted temples, amphitheaters, markets and wheel-rutted streets. The Roman Empire in Africa stretched from Alexandria on the border of Egypt across to Tangier on the Strait of Gibraltar; its remarkably preserved ruins give the best picture of the Ancient World available today.

CHINA by Emit Schulthess. 248 pages. Viking. $25. This opulent book of 165 splendid photographs, taken by Swiss-born Photojournalist Schulthess and supplemented by even-handed essays from Author Edgar Snow, German Journalist Harry Hamm and Professor Emil Egli, is about as close as most Americans will get to China this year. The photos, like China itself, seem timeless: men and women straining to haul boats upriver against a driving current, bent-backed peasants at labor in the fields, students planting trees, Mongolian horsemen racing across the steppe. And everywhere, plump wide-eyed children.

AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF ITALY by Milton Gendel. 276 pages. McGraw-Hill. $25. A fascinating pictorial chronicle from the Iron Age to La Dolce Vita, with half a dozen historical essays by Italian and British professors.

ARCHITECTURE OF ANCIENT CIVILIZATIONS IN COLOR by Bodo Cichy. 424 pages. Viking. $25. About five pounds of information on ancient cultures in Mesopotamia and Yucatán, Crete and Etruria. Again, the color plates are beautifully done, while the architecture—megaliths, city gates, temples, pyramids, ziggurats—again convinces that art is long.

AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORYOFGERMANY by André Maurois. 295 pages. Viking $22.50. From the time of Arminius who destroyed three Roman legions in the dense Teutoburger Wald, to Germany’s present-day resurgence, the country has been painted, sculpted anc dissected in words by friend and foe alike. Author Maurois, who has also done illustrated histories of France and England, is guardedly optimistic abou the German future, sees little likelihood of a new Nazism but warns that “Bismarckian nationalism always will remain a possibility.”

$10 to $20

GREAT HOUSES OF AMERICA by Henry and Ottalie Williams. 295 pages. Putnam. $20. The best there is in the U.S., from Monticello and The Breakers to obscure local favorites such as Adena at Chillicothe, Ohio, and Bellingrath in Theodore, Ala. Interiors, exteriors and floor plans.

BIRDS OF THE NORTHERN FOREST, paintings by J. F. Lansdowne, text by John A. Livingston. 247 pages. Houghton Mifflin. $20. Paintings of birds to rank with those of Gould and Audubon distinguish this sumptuous volume devoted to Canadian birds, most of them, of course, with dual citizenship in the U.S. Lansdowne is an artist who gratifies the ornithologist with his precision and detail, and he charms the print fancier with his grace and delicacy of tone. Worth the price of 30 bushels of sunflower seeds.

THE DECORATIVE ARTS OF THE MARINER edited by Gervis Frere-Cook. 296 pages. Little, Brown. $20. Marine art is given its due in this splendid account of state barges, navigational instruments, figureheads, decorative rope and scrimshaw (see cut, opening page). The ships themselves come in all styles and ages from Mississippi steamboats to Malay proas, from Chinese dragon boats to Atlantic liners. An enjoyable whiff of the sea.

A DECADE OF STILL LIFE by Aaron Bohrod. 298 pages. University of Wisconsin Press. $20. Skulls, bananas, ears of corn, scythes, walnuts, pottery, furry toys—almost anything may turn up in Bohrod’s rich collage-like paintings. This collection—three of them TIME covers—represents the artist’s maturity and is, like Bohrod himself, fresh and distinctly American.

FORMS OF NATURE AND LIFE by Andreas Feininger. 170 pages. Viking. $18.50. Here, the camera eye sensitively probes the world around man—land, shore, water, insects, animal engineering. A beauty of a book for armchair naturalists.

ECCE HOMO by George Grosz. Grove Press. $15. Germany’s savage satirist, who died in 1959, represented by some of his finest thrusts at pomposity and obtuseness. The drawings and water-colors done in the between-wars period reflect Grosz’s deep pessimism as he watched the wavering fall of the Weimar Republic, with Hitler waiting in the wings of history. “Once you have glimpsed these corrosive portraits, these street and bedroom scenes,” writes Author Henry Miller in a foreword, “you will never forget them.”

THE GARDEN by Julia Berrall. 388 pages. Viking. $15. An illustrated history of gardening from the time of the Pharaohs to the present day (see cut, opening page). It is full of odd nuggets of information, from the fact that ladies of the Middle Ages often bathed nude before guests in their gardens to the date of the first modern lawn mower: 1830. Fine reading for soil-sports.

LOST CITIES OF ASIA by Wim Swaan. 175 pages. Putnam. $15. All five of the lost cities that are shown and described here died in battle, some several times over. Angkor in Cambodia is world-famous, but the others, though less well known, are well worth the discovery. Sigiriya, a mountain fortress in Ceylon, was abandoned after King Kassapa, disgraced in battle, committed suicide. Anuradhapura and Polonnarawa, also in Ceylon, were capital cities until their destruction by Tamil invaders; Pagan, Burma’s pagoda city, gleamed with golden cupolas, bright frescoes and a forest of stupas before it was overwhelmed by Mongols. Swaan’s text is as illuminating as his color plates.

MASADA by Yigael Yadin. 272 pages. Random House. $12.95. A reverent and absorbing account of the archaeological dig at the rock of Masada on the Dead Sea, where, almost 2,000 years ago, 960 Jews died when the Romans breeched the walls of their aerie. Yadin has himself seen battle; he was Israel’s Chief of Staff (1948-52) before turning archaeologist. Totally engrossing.

THE PRO QUARTERBACK by Murray Olderman. 437 pages. Prentice-Hall. $12.95. An attempt with words and pictures to explain the collisions that take place on autumnal afternoons. The game, which Sports Editor Olderman defines as “human chess,” receives thorough coverage, including the author’s own rating of the best pro quarterbacks: 1) Otto Graham, 2) John Unitas, and 3) Bobby Layne.

SARATOGA by George Waller. 392 pages. Prentice-Hall. $12.95. In the early days, the Iroquois drank the health-giving waters of the Saratoga spa in Upper New York state. Today, the beneficial tonic is supplied in summer by the new Saratoga Performing Arts Center and the traditional race meeting. In the interim, the place was the nation’s gaudiest resort, alive with scandals, gambling and frivolity. This book recaptures all of the” old magnificence.

THE THREE BANNERS OF CHINA by Marc Riboud. 216 pages. Macmillan. $12.50. Another objective glance at Red China, including visits to Buddhist caves, a girls’ dormitory at Kunming University and a Peking divorce court. The pictures were taken last year; and, since Riboud, a French journalist, spent four months in China in 1957, he is informative on the contrasts and changes since then. In sum, he sees it as a land that would be a hell for Westerners but bearable for Eastern peasants. The Chinese are constantly exhorted to read the works of Mao Tse-tung daily, and Riboud offers several pages of Mao’s sayings. Sample: “Learning is like rowing a boat against the current; if one stops, one goes backward.”

IN SEARCH OF CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE by A. D. Wraight and Virginia Stern. 376 pages. Vanguard. $12.50. A pictorial investigation of the one Elizabethan poet who could hold a candle to Shakespeare and who was a trouble-maker as well. Marlowe’s route is traced through contemporary prints and present-day photos of his haunts. In trouble with the Star Chamber because of his vocal atheism, Marlowe was killed in a drunken brawl at Deptford, just as the law was closing in. The murder had so many loose ends that historians still wonder if it was not a put-up job to enable Marlowe to flee the country.

Under $10

THE CLASSIC CARTOONS edited by William Cole and Mike Thaler. 336 pages. World. $8.95. A collection that synthesizes the wit of the U.S., Britain and the Continent, though with a heavy reliance on The New Yorker and Punch. Just about all the old favorites are here, from Arno to Price to Rose, Dempsey, Cruikshank and Searle.

FAREWELL TO STEAM by David Plowden. 154 pages. Stephen Greene Press. $8.95. An elegiac account of an age defeated by oil and jet engines—the lake and river steamboats and the great locomotives that opened up the continent.

HOUSES OF GOD by Jeannette Mirsky. 235 pages. Viking. $8.50. Just the thing for the pantheist on the gift list. An ecumenical rundown of all the world’s most important places of worship, from the equinoctial siting at Stonehenge to the bland Meditation Room at the United Nations.

THE STORY OF ST. PETER’S by Thea and Richard Bergere. 128 pages. Dodd, Mead. $4.95. How the basilica was created, with a glance at Emperor Constantine’s church, begun in 324 A.D. and replaced by St. Peter’s after it nearly collapsed in the 16th century.

IMAGE OF THE UNIVERSE by Richard Mdanathan. 192 pages. Doubleday. $4.50. Yet another ramble through the notebooks of that Renaissance man—architect, painter, astronomer, botanist, engineer, philosopher, sculptor, military tactician—Leonardo da Vinci.

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