The Book Depository England's Cathedrals by Simon Jenkins

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The Book Depository England's Cathedrals by Simon Jenkins
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Description: England's Cathedrals : Hardback : Little, Brown Book Group : 9781408706459 : 1408706458 : 06 Dec 2016 : The author of the magisterial England's Thousand Best Churches turns his eye to England's cathedrals, with fascinating, personal - and often funny - insight into their history and their place in English life. The Book Depository England's Cathedrals by Simon Jenkins - shop the best deal online on thebookbug.co.uk

 

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Product ID: 9781408706459

MPN: 1408706458

GTIN: 9781408706459

 
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Author: Rockbiddy

Rating: 5

Review: This is a competent guide to all the well-known English cathedrals along with some of the less prominent ones, covering 53 in total. There is a map at the start of the book showing locations and a list of star ratings from 1 to 5, based on the author's personal preference. The cathedrals appear in alphabetical order and each entry is illustrated with several colour photographs. For each cathedral the author gives a brief history along with his personal 'take' on it. He also references other commentators: Pevsner and Betjeman crop up regularly. I thought the cathedral histories were pitched just right. There's enough information to give a sense of the chronology, but not so much as to become dull or confusing. Re-visiting a couple of cathedrals after purchasing the book, I found I had a better understanding of not only when, but how and why their different architectural features had developed, compared to previous visits. I found the author's personal views quite fascinating and at times, quirkily amusing. For example, he describes Southwark cathedral as 'a frigate . . . grey and slightly menacing'; Chester a 'boisterous urchin' and Lichfield a 'pugnacious bruiser'. As I visit and re-visit cathedrals I find that I do not agree with all of the author's personal views or his star ratings, but that hardly matters. It's fun to work out how he arrived at his opinions and to decide how much they correspond with or differ from my own. I think that anyone who enjoys visiting cathedrals will appreciate this book. In my own case it has helped enhance my experience when revisiting familiar cathedrals and has fired me up to visit some that I have not yet seen.

 

Author: B. J. O'Brien

Rating: 2

Review: This book contains about 140 full- or double-page photos of English cathedrals. On average the quality of the photos in this collection is disappointingly low. Most of the other reviewers don’t say that. They have appraised the collection of photos as ‘magnificent’, ‘very attractive’, ‘excellent’, ‘beautiful’, ‘superb’, ‘top-class’ , etc. I disagree. There are indeed a few photos that qualify as magnificent (eg pages 194, 242) but also some others that are absolutely dreadful (pages 15, 289), and many others that don’t quite make the grade as an attractive photo (pages 2, 76). The defects of the photos vary: in some cases the image is not quite sharp (pages 62, 214), in others it is rather over-exposed (pages 34, 262) or else badly lit (pages 80, 258); some of the photos are poorly composed (pages 58, 178). But, you may well think, it is easy to pick out a few of the less successful photos from any large collection. That in itself does not show that on average the quality of the whole collection of photos is low – especially since so many other people have called the photos ‘magnificent’, ‘very attractive’ etc without qualification. True enough, so if you want to see how I support my criticism, read on. As a post-Christmas pastime I and two friends looked carefully at a sample of photos from the book. The sample we defined consisted of the 15 full- or double-page photos on pages 120 to 152 – photos of the cathedrals of Hereford, Leeds RC, Leicester, Lichfield and Lincoln. We agreed to evaluate those 15 photos by putting each into one of four classes: Wow (so impressive that it makes you want to show the photo to people who aren’t even interested in cathedrals); Attractive (good to look at, but not wow); Mediocre (when looked at carefully has undesirable flaws and/or is quite uninteresting); Poor (disastrously flawed).We evaluated the pictures independently and then put our results together. Where there was disagreement we took the majority verdict. The results were as follows (out of 15 photos): Wow: 1 photo; Attractive: 3 photos; Mediocre: 7 photos; Poor: 4 photos. That is, we found only 4 out of the 15 photos – less than one-third of them – to be attractive or better. Thus, unless our judgements are unreasonably harsh, it follows that on average the quality of this collection of photos is extremely low. If you want to see our working here it is: Wow: page 144; Attractive: pages 136, 146, 149; Mediocre: pages 122, 128, 130, 134, 138, 141, 142; Poor: 120, 127, 132, 152. It really is surprising that the average quality of these photos is so low. Out of 52 cathedrals the lesser ones have just one or two photos, and the most important have a maximum of five photos. Given that book design, there is no excuse for any mediocre or poor photos. The big-name buildings such as Canterbury and Salisbury offer the photographer abundant opportunities for fine, attractive photos, and for the lesser buildings such as Blackburn and Wakefield the book design requires only that one or at most two successful photos be offered. So it does seem astonishing that this collection of photos is of such poor quality. If it is true that all is so bad and astonishing as I suggest, how has this come about? The information on pages 340-1 is significant. There the list of credits for the photos shows that the whole collection of 140 photos (plus also a few much smaller photos embedded in the text) has been drawn from just about 100 different sources! Yes, 100 different sources! It is clear that the photos have not been taken specially for this book by one photographer or team of photographers. Rather, somebody must have been given the task of searching high and low to assemble the required collection from the many photos that were already available from photo libraries. This would not matter, and might be an advantage, if the result were a fine collection of items, each carefully chosen by someone with reliable critical faculties – somebody able, for example, to compare ten rival views of Chichester Cathedral from the south-west and choosing the best. But I doubt that there was very much of that kind of thing. More likely the appointed picture editor lacked the time or the budget or the competence to do an adequate job.

 

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