Sunday 18 August 2019

From sea and land to film and travel: tomes to grace any coffee table

Abandoned Mansions of Ireland
Abandoned Mansions of Ireland
Dublin Bay
The Man on the Bridge
Dali The Wines of Gala
Humble Works for Humble People
Dublin: A new Illustrated History
Making Majesty
1001 Movies
The Rivers of Dublin
200 Amazing Places
The Dublin Docker
Atlas of the Irish Revolution
Powering the Nation
Exploring Ireland's Castles by Tarquin Blake

Ninety years ago, an Irish Independent report on inhumane working and living conditions at the Shannon Hydroelectric Scheme caused an outcry. In Powering The Nation (Irish Academic Press) design historian Sorcha O'Brien evaluates the images behind the State's first great modernisation project, surveying schematics, paintings, lithographs and drawings, plus a rich archive of photos, postcards and even cigarette packs.

As the giant Shannon power house went up, the great houses of Ireland came crashing down, many razed to the ground during the War of Independence, the Civil War, and their aftermath. Tarquin Blake's Abandoned Mansions Of Ireland II, follows up his first instalment with more elegant photos and essays. Blake's second book of 2017, Exploring Ireland's Castles (both Collins Press), traces fortifications stretching back to the Anglo-Normans.

From 1204 to 1922 Dublin Castle symbolised English rule in Ireland, and Making Majesty (Irish Academic Press: Eds Myles Campbell, William Derham) puts the spotlight on the Throne Room, the venue of countless power-dressing pageants before and after independence.

New illustrated books on the capital could cover a couple of good-sized coffee tables, with water a recurring theme. Richard Nairn, David Jeffrey and Rob Goodbody bring us Dublin Bay: Nature & History (Collins), which recounts centuries of settlement and the symbiotic relationship between people, wildlife and physical environment. This attractive volume, in Jeffrey's words, tells the story of "a life support system, an economic asset and an invaluable recreational resource". A stone's throw upstream we come to Man On The Bridge: More Photos By Arthur Fields (Collins). Snapping passers-by on O'Connell Bridge from the 1930s to the 1980s, Fields left us a spellbinding social history in pictures.

In a rebooted edition of The Rivers Of Dublin (Irish Academic Press), Clair Sweeney charts the courses of the waterways that have fed Dublin Bay, today and in times past, and bring to life riverside societies down the centuries. John Gibney, meanwhile, in Dublin: A New Illustrated History (Collins) points out that the natives had settled the bay area long before the Vikings who hog all the credit. Elsewhere, Aileen O'Carroll and Don Bennett focus on the capital's port workers in The Dublin Docker (Irish Academic Press). In an age when every import and export travelled by sea, dock workers were key to the nation's health and wealth, but they had to fight for every petty concession from their employers.

Harbour workers feature too in Noel Wilkins' admirable Humble Works For Humble People (Irish Academic Press). A pictorial treat, it explores the history of the fishery piers and harbours of Galway and north Clare. Wilkins writes stylishly of the engineering projects and the men and women who built livelihoods in and around them, through kelp-making, fishing, turf distribution and seaborne trade.

Packed with iconic images and newly updated to include fairly recent crowd-pleasers such as the delightful La La Land and the white-knuckle Mad Max: Fury Road, Steven Jay Schneider's 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die (Cassell) is a movie trivia buff's dream. The author argues the case for each entry's place among the greatest ever made, backed up by tons of supporting evidence from spine-tingling set-pieces to most shocking twists to best memorabilia marketing campaigns. The final 1,001 selections provide fuel for limitless postprandial yuletide squabbling.

An assembly of professional globetrotters have pooled their vast experience into a compendium of what they deem to be the planet's must go-to destinations: 200 Amazing Places And How To Do Them (Times Books) is choc-a-bloc with sumptuous photographs and enchanting pen-pictures. A window on a wonderful world to grace any coffee table.

It's fair to say that after they fitted Salvador Dali's window on to the world they threw away the architect's plans. A bon viveur who would settle the bill for the most lavish dinner with a doodle on a napkin, Dali strove to transmute sensations like taste and smell into tangible images. Did he succeed? You can judge for yourself in the new reprint of Dali's The Wines Of Gala (Taschen) a follow-up to last year's hugely successful reissue of Les Dîners de Gala.

Damian corless

Top pick: Atlas of the Irish revolution

At 5kg and 1,000 pages, this is a massive achievement, furnishing a reader-friendly account of the birth of this nation, along with its conception and faltering baby steps. Over 100 scholars supply a bird's eye view of the whos, whats, and whens - but what marks this atlas out is its vivid exposition of the wheres, through maps, photos and regional coverage.

J Crowley, D Ó Drisceoil, M Murphy & J borgonovo

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