This new entry (2009) into the library of Gothic building photography is a welcome addition due to its high quality reproductions, its coverage of a wide variety of structures from across Europe, and the addition of a short, but informative, written narrative on the issues surrounding medieval vaulting for European edifices. As anyone who is interested in Gothic architecture is painfully aware, the ability to purchase high quality (or actually, ANY quality) printed photo books covering the field is excruciatingly difficult. It's not because there are no books out there: it's that many of them are generally available only in Europe, are published by local concerns such as cathedrals, churches, or local towns and therefore not easily found in online sellers, and are not always the best reproduction quality. In addition, those that ARE printed in high quality, large page format tend to sell out quickly, pushing the price of the remaining volumes into the stratosphere.
You should keep this in mind with this text, because even though the book is being printed by Princeton, it is entirely possible this volume will follow the same trajectory and end up being prohibitively expensive. That's a shame, because this is a lovely book that is best distributed to a wide audience. If you are interested in Gothic architecture, this book will provide you with great images of the transept crossing vaulting and choir vaulting in full color and with good resolution. A nice touch of the book is that the photos are arranged with essentially the same photographic "framing" in each image, making comparisons between the structures very easy as you move from page to page (see the sample photos above to see what I mean). The images are new, high resolution, and reproduced with good color without being over saturated.
As someone who has visited and photographed many of these structures throughout France, I have been highly amazed at the beauty and emotional impact of the vaulting of Gothic buildings. A good friend of mine, after I had shown her one of my photo albums, laughed and commented that my shots all focused on "roofs and floors." She's probably correct, because in a Gothic structure, that's where a lot of the "action" is. And this volume lets us see some of that action (the vaults) by simply browsing through its pages. Don't miss out on this one.
While you are at it, try adding a few others like it (see below) before they, too, end up out of print. Although I was slightly disappointed that this particular volume is printed on matte paper instead of full gloss, the resolution, color depth, and overall quality of the paper itself make this a minor issue. It probably holds down the cost another ten or twenty dollars, as well. Five stars out of five.
Also Review These Photographic Volumes:
- Visions of Heaven: The Dome in European Architecture
- Great Cathedrals
- Great Monasteries of Europe
- Gothic: Architecture - Sculpture - Painting