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on 6 January 2010
My postman told me to look at Wikipedia, where it says that Andrew Davis is a bankrupt former-businessman who until recently owned a chain of country-house hotels. For some reason Davis seems to be bearing a grudge against the author. This is a wonderful book. It's biggish (about 30cm high & 5cm thick), as you would expect of an illustrated book on architecture. The photographs are extraordinary; they include Thomas Pakenham's pictures of Longleat (Pakenam's Meetings With Remarkable Trees (Cassell Illustrated Classics) is a classic of nature photography) and work by many other outstanding photographers. The buildings are shown in all states and occupancies, from small boys packed into the school dining-room at Gilling Castle in Yorkshire to the tiny image of an old couple seen walking past a ruin in Northamptonshire, Lyvedon New Bield. Old drawings have been beautifully reproduced: we can see all the detail of some wild looking Bosch-like ornamental figures on a Jacobean triumphal arch, for example. Newly-drawn plans of houses are all at the same scale, which makes comparison easy. The writing is clear and witty; Girouard's remarks are characteristically insightful and his scholarship remarkable. As an architect, I've no doubt that this book will become the standard work on Elizabethan and Jacobean architecture; no one knows as much as Mark Girouard does about this subject. As Colin Amery said in The Spectator, "Mark Girouard is our greatest architectural writer and historian and this is his best book -- a sumptuous treat".
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on 12 January 2010
Elizabethan Architecture is so good,in so many ways that reviewing it is likely so sound like a puff. Of course Mark Girouard is a leading figure of architectural history and the social history associated with it, he writes fluently giving you facts and opinions that are easily assimilated. The text is important but it is supported by superb photographs, plans and diagrams and the book is well produced and printed.
Reading it and seeing the reproductions makes you want to start at once on an extended tour of all the buildings concerned but if that is not possible the book is an excellent substitute.

Robin Plummer
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on 22 February 2016
Excellent pictures illustrate a thoroughly-researched text. A delight to read in detail and to browse at leisure.
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on 10 September 2011
As a History of Art student my main motivation to buy this book were the magnificent illustrations. It offers close-up pictures of small architectural details and even more importantly scans of rare, original floor plans that are hardly obtainable, especially if you live outside the UK like I do. They helped me understand coherences described not just in this book, but different, less carefully illustrated academic texts as well.
Girouard's writing style is engaging and while some of his assumptions are easily refutable, they do serve very well as food for your own thoughts. Overall I'd say that this book is a great, well-written and detailed introduction to Elizabethan architecture, delivered from an expert on the topic. It is educative and entertaining for the layman as well as for the professional.
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on 27 October 2009
For architectural historians this is a 'must have' book for reference; it is the last word on Elizabethan architecture for many years to come.

Weighing in at 5 lbs it is not bed-time reading, a friend tried it and was rudely wakened when it fell on her! The many illustrations are magnificent and lavish; Yale Press has spared no expense and the price is worth it.

The text is divided into subjects which are essays on their own but, if the reader wants to look up, for example Longleat, the pages are scattered through the book. There is much new and interesting and as we have come to expect from Mark, very readable.

The publication was much delayed since the original date of May, due to Mark having to have a sojourn in hospital but now fully recovered.
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on 12 November 2009
My postman said this was the heaviest book he'd ever delivered. And the Paul Mellon Foundation money showered upon it appears to make it a bargain in terms of sheer weight, if not always merit, of illustrations offered.

But, oh the text! This is one of the most badly edited/put together books you're going to see from a publisher as posh as Yale University Press. Or from an author who is the leading historian in the subject and now offering a book on "the whole field in detail" ( says the flyleaf) which " is essentially a product of new research and travel on his part" ( says YUP's p.r. puff).

From prologue to footnotes there are countless examples of sloppy writing or thinking. Two different dates are frequently given for the same historical event or modern publication ( including one of the author's own). Frequently there are different spellings of the same proper name (including someone thanked by the author). Misrememberings around the country abound ( e.g. Hanwell for Handsworth, Yorkshire or Corbet instead of Clough in Denbighshire). Sometimes sources can't even be remembered at all - with ludicrous results. There are repeated misrepresentations of other writers' published works on which the author relies very heavily along with ( frankly admitted) rehashes of large chunks of his own old books. In fact there is little evidence of fresh documentary finds and travel. Too often the touted new research seems merely to be speculative, sometimes obviously wrong, armchair attributions or musings in place of hard evidence.

Perhaps this should be no surprise. The flyleaf also says it is 40 years since the author ventured into the field. So it is shocking that, through coy footnotes which only near the end reveal their full implications, there is an admission from him that his basis for his first book has now been shown to be mistaken. Therefore, although it is very sad to read thanks from the author now to surgeons, doctors and nurses at a London hospital, slipshod writing and hypothesizing beg the question - how can anyone trust the new book?
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