Being tight, I thought I’d check this book out before I put my hand in my pocket and bought a copy, so I ordered this from my library (inter-library loans are fab!) and it came all the way from Hampshire within a fortnight !
The author, Andy Peters, is a carver of great renown, having recently completed the figurehad for the French tall ship Hermione, but lets get one thing straight at the beginning, this is not a carving manual – if you are after a ‘how-to’ book you’ll need to look elsewhere.
The book is a tantalising overview of the best work of the period by the top carvers in France, Holland, England, Denmark and Sweden and there-in lies both its strength and weakness. The book occasionally becomes a little more than a list, at times, of styles and sculptors, pausing sometimes to elaborate on the more colourful characters of the day. Having said this, I thoroughly enjoyed, and was properly inspired by, the insightful comments, pictures and descriptions of the developments in technology, design and construction the book provides, it just left me wishing there was more – by only reviewing the elite works of the Royal ship-carvers from so many nations, and being left agog at their incredible skills, I was left wishing I could have an insight into what the mid-ranking carvers of Privateers and merchants were producing.
Mr Peters provides a thorough grounding, in one book, of the elite decorations of the period, and as such, the book does exactly what it sets out to do. However, in my opinion, the book could be seen as trying to do too much, spreads itself too thin – I would love to see a follow up series looking in depth at each of the countries in turn, or perhaps a similar overview of North Africa, Spain, Turkey and Russia (the story of Czar Peter the Great’s grand tour of Europe in disguise as a peasant itinerant worker, accompanied by a huge entourage, in order to aquire cutting-edge naval technologies is the stuff of legend).
Would I buy it? Definitely, its a gem, full in information I have been waiting years to find, and is the perfect companion to Architectura Mercatoria Navalis by Chapman (not the Dover re-print) which has been in print since the 18th century – kinda says it all really.