ROBERT TANITCH’S ROUND-UP OF BOOKS No 4
ENGLANDS CATHEDRALS by Simon Jenkins (Little, Brown £30). Cathedrals are the nation’s glories and though we are living in a secular age, they attract roughly half the nation’s population each year. I remember the first time I saw Exeter and was completely bowled over. Which is your favourite? Canterbury, Westminster, St Paul’s Winchester, York, Durham, Salisbury, Norwich? There are 42 to choose from. Jenkins champions Ely, Lincoln and Wells as his favourites and awards them five stars (He slams Guildford with one star.) The photographs alone make you want to pack your bags and go for a week-end. I already know my New Year’s resolution and I shall keep this admirable book close at hand as a reminder.
FIFTY ENGLISH STEEPLES by Julian Flannery (Thames & Hudson £50). The Finest Medieval Parish Church Towers and Spires in England. The first systematic survey, depicted with precise line drawings and photographs, cover500 years, ranging from Earls Barton in Northampshire to Louth in Lancashire and including such beauties as West Walton in Norfolk, St Mary’s in Oxford, Brant Broughton in Lincolnshire, Salle in Norfolk, Eye in Suffolk, Ludlow in Shropshire, Titchmarsh in Northamptonshire, Boston in Lincolnshire and many more. It’s a great book for those who love church architecture.
TREASURES OF BRITISH HISTORY by Peter and Dan Snow (Andre Deutsch £30). This richly illustrated memorabilia will give a lot of pleasure to anybody interested in historical documents. The 50 include Magna Carter, Indictment of Anne Boleyn, Death warrant of Charles I, American Declaration of Independence, Bligh’s Report on the mutiny on the Bounty, Plan of the Battle of Trafalgar, Stephenson’s patient for a steam engine, police report on the death of suffragette Emily Davison, a letter from Jack the Ripper, FA Cup design, The Munich Agreement, D-Day Map and many more. 10 documents are reproduced in facsimile form, including maps, battle dispatches and logbook entries.
MEETINGS WITH REMARKABLE MANUSCRIPTS by Christopher De Hamel (Allen Lane £30) is a story of intellectual culture from the final moments of the Roman Empire in the 6thcentury to the High Renaissance in the 16th century. There are 12 illuminated volumes, too fragile and too precious to be accessible to the public. The manuscripts include The Gospels of Saint Augustine, The Book of Kells, The Carmina Burana (songs of love and lust) and The Hours of Jeanne de Navarre. The illustrations are great and the text is very accessible. It is almost as if you are there with De Hamel as he opens the manuscripts.