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REFERENCE BOOKS for Stained Glass

The book has superb illustartions

Written by respected historian of medieval art and architecture, Nicola Coldstream, this book focuses on the achievements of the countless skilled individuals who crafted and laboured tirelessly to build Wales's finest castles, houses, churches and abbeys.

Although wall painting can be very striking, in medieval times stained glass was valued much more highly. So much glass has been damaged that this can be difficult to appreciate today, and records of individual glaziers are scarce. Nevertheless we have the name of one glazier: Simon, who worked at Caernarfon Castle in 1283.

Stained glass involved the two elements that medieval people most admired in a craft: highly skilled workmanship and the effect of jewelled colour. Although stained glass was used in very high-class secular buildings it was far more common in churches.

Most surviving examples in Wales date from the late fourteenth century onwards. White glass was made in England, but coloured glass was imported at great expense from northern Europe and Venice. Glass was made in areas with beech woods, which provided not only timber for firing the kilns, but also the essential ingredients of glass - sand (silica) and the beech wood itself. Beech yielded the potash that lowered the melting point of the sand. The glass makers produced colours by adding oxides of metals such as manganese, cobalt or copper to the molten glass.

Illustrated in colour throughout, Builders and Decorators explores the planning, construction and decoration of buildings in the Middle Ages and the working practices of the many masons, carpenters, sculptors, wall painters, glaziers and tilers who crafted them.

In medieval times the wall paintings, carvings and tiles were particularly exquisite and many have been faithfully reproduced within the book. Some very good examples can still be seen today across Wales, including the recently conserved St Teilo's Church in St Fagans.

This is the publisher's press release.

Art of Light The Virgin Tiffany: Lamps and Metalware

German Renaissance Stained Glass

Susan Foister

Published by National Gallery Company
To accompany the exhibition of the same name at The National Gallery, London, 7th Nov 2007 to 8th Feb 2008
ISBN 978 185709 348 3

This book draws heavily on the Sixteenth Century Stained Glass Collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Paintings of the National Gallery. It is a slim volume, 29 pages, lavishly illustrated and yet produces a wealth of interest with detailed discussion of many of the stained glass panels studied. As you work your way through this book you rapidly gain an insight into the evolution of German Stained Glass over this period, and the intimate cooperation between glaziers and painters of the time. There is no doubt that the stained glass artists were heavily influenced by painters and paintings.

Naaman After a short description of stained glass, how it was made and by whom, the book discusses how glass was painted with detailed descriptions of how the paints were made and applied. The evolution to a more painterly approach by 1500 is explained.

Although the book has many many ecclesiastical images, there is a sizeable number of pastoral scenes used in the illustration of how stained glass artists drew inspiration from painters of the time.

I lked this book. Its a fascinating read, with its clear insight into German Renaissance Stained Glass, and would be a super addition to the library of anyone interested in the history of european glass.

I have one important negative about this book. The photographs, without exception have been taken using reflected light. As a result the images are all flat, and do not show the wonderful colour and light these panels would produce with refracted light. An excellent book, spoiled by this.

Ed the Editor

Tiffany: Lamps and Metalware
Alastair Duncan

Reviewed by Ed Potterton on a separate page (lots of images)

Stained and Art Glass: A Unique History of Glass Design and Making

Toxicology Ceramics Glass and Metallurgy
Edouard Bastarache

Reviewed by Fizz Stuart

Toxicology Ceramics Glass and Metallurgy is an admirably comprehensive compilation. It has 337 pages of detailed information on the dangers of many substances used in glassblowing and ceramic studios. Some of the information is also relevant to stained glass. This includes data on lead, hydrofluoric acid and silver nitrate.

The book seems to be well-researched, though there were some errors and omissions. For example, hydrofluoric acid burns may not become apparent for many hours after exposure, so it is essential for users to have calcium gluconate gel at home.

It would have been useful to have a common format for the entries. It seems that much of the information has been copied directly from the primary sources and although there is a list of references, there is no indication of the source of each entry.

A few years ago, this would have been a valuable reference book for safety officers responsible for craft studios. Nowadays, most of the information book can be downloaded as manufacturers’ safety data sheets (MSDS). Typing MSDS hydrofluoric acid into Google found almost the same information as the book.

For me, the 15 pages of essays at the end were the most interesting part. These cover subjects like glassblower’s cataracts and specific risks to pregnant women - information which is not easy to find elsewhere.

The book is published in Quebec and some parts have been translated from French. This results in some confusing wording at times. (I was also surprised to see Quebec described as a country on page 328!) It has obviously been photocopied onto American 8”x11” papr and although the text is clear, the binding is unlikely to survive heavy use.

Fizz Stuart

The reviewer of this book, Fizz Stuart, is a a professional physicist with an honours degree from Edinburgh University and 20 years' experience in air pollution measurements. He is also an amateur stained glass artist, which is how he met his wife, Rona Moody.

Stained and Art Glass: A Unique History of Glass Design and Making
Stained and Art Glass: A Unique History of Glass Design and Making
Judith Neiswander
Caroline Swash

Publisher: The Intelligent Layman
ISBN 0 947798 65 X

Reviewed by Jon Stamford

Although Caroline Swash is well known in stained glass circles, Judith Neiswander is a new name, to me at least. However this combination of maker and scholar works well.

The subject matter of both stained and art glass is surprising. There are plenty of books on each but few on both, so I see this as really two books. It is not a history of stained glass or art glass. Neiswander and Swash start with Burne Jones but the focus of the book is geographical. There are sections on Scandinavian, Czech, Australian and Japanese glass among others. Some chapters cover stylistic movements or a single artist. Some cover a technique such as glass painting, illustrated by Cappy Thompson and Judith Schaechter.

Unless you dislike 20th century glass, there is plenty to enjoy here. All the usual subjects are covered. Better still, the book often shows less well known work. Schreiter’s famous Leutesdorf chapel is here (p212). But so too are the Whitechapel windows (p218) on medical themes. I would have loved to see the see the fragile beauty of the Elephant Man window but this is a minor quibble.

Often the authors point out links between an artist’s paintings and their glass. For some, such as Matisse the links are not obvious – compare the geometric Chapelle du Rosaire (p133) with ‘La Danse’ (pp130-1). For many artists, glass was simply another vehicle for expression. I also liked the many ‘studio shots’ illustrating artists at work or, at least, in context. Whilst common for painters, glass artists seem camera-shy. Many are unposed shots such as that of Bo Beskow (p176).

The illustrations have clear detail and rich saturated colours. Better still, the publishers have used full pages for pictures where needed – see Patrick Reyntiens’ panel ‘Apollo and the Daughters of Niobe’ (pp262-3) or Tiffany’s ‘Snowball’ (pp44-5). This lets the reader really probe the artists’ technique.

There are a few failures – the photos of Chagall’s famous Tudeley windows (p125) reminded me of faded slides. The photos of Patrick Reyntiens (pp257 and 259) are almost sepia –he’s not that old! In one case, (p222) the picture is out of focus. These are not enough to spoil my enjoyment but should be addressed in a reprinting.

Ultimately, this is a great book. Believe me, you want it.

Jon Stamford, Sept 2006

Detail from a Victorian Window
Stained Glass of Canterbury Cathedral
by Michael A Michael

Published July 2004 by Scala
ISBN 1857593391
Reviewed by Rona Moody

Dr Michael is an expert on mediaeval art and particularly stained glass, (and one of the contributing authors to the Corpus Vitrearum Medii Aevi, the survey of Mediaeval Stained Glass in Great Britain), so you would expect this book to be knowledgeable, and it is.

The book starts with a plan of the cathedral with the placing of all the windows shown, like Lee/Seddon/Stephens before it, making it easy to find specific windows. The first chapters set the historical and artistic framework in to which the mediaeval windows fit, with some suggestions about how to read stained glass.( “The window is read, like most English glass, from top to bottom”)

A Tiffany beauty discussed in the book
Lavishly illustrated (many of the photos are of course by Halliday and Lushingham, but most ot the others are by the Cathedral Studio itself, who have access that we can just dream of). The quality of the reproduction is pretty good, and seeing both close-ups and whole panels – and whole windows- is extremely helpful. I also found the little sketches, showing which parts of the windows had been replaced and which were original, fascinating. The nerd in me would really like to go round with a slim volume of those alone to see which I could spot!

There are thorough discussions of each mediaeval window, providing a huge amount of historical and cultural background, an explanation of the scene shown and how it fits in to mediaeval and liturgical thought. There are scholarly discussions on which windows can be attributed to which artists, and why and many comparisons with art work around the known world which I found fascinating.

Although there is a nod to “how it is done”, this is a book about the stories illustrated and the style, not the techniques. No sign of Theophilus! However, it is apparently aimed at “visitors and general readers alike”. I think at times it is too scholarly for this.

If it is for visitors, that would suggest they could carry it round while looking at the windows, which I would certainly have enjoyed doing if it wasn’t a huge glossy coffee-table book, not something to slip from the pocket and thumb through. However, I did find it fascinating, and, having studied mediaeval art at university, enjoyed being reminded of the complex thought processes involved in developing deceptively simple designs.

When he comes to the modern glass, Michael’s discussion seems a bit all over the place. Although the mediaeval glass is, of course, Canterbury’s glory, some of the modern glass is wonderful too, and deserves more than the cursory, rather idiosyncratic, treatment he gives it, including:

We’re told that Comper was Scots but not that Wilson was. Apart from a name check, Wilson gets no mention, yet his window is an extremely fine example of heraldry – very difficult and challenging as anyone who has tackled it will tell you - and one which Wilson himself thought one of his best. And I thought it was odd that Michael claimed that Bossanyi relished his commission – didn’t the others? - and, unlike Whall, wanted his stained glass to be entirely modern. Whall was a ground breaker in his time and as modern in his approach as Bossanyi was in his, now dated, style.

The final short chapter, by Sebastian Strobl, recently retired head of the conservation department, is thorough and interesting, though he talks as if the methods used, some of which are controversial, are the only techniques available to the restorer.

All in all, though I really enjoyed the book, I think it is 3 books:

  1. A coffee table book with lots of detailed pictures that you can dip in and out of.
  2. A slip-in-the-pocket guide that you can whip out in front of the window and find out what’s happening to whom.
  3. A book for curling up with in front of the fire and finding out all sorts of fascinating details about mediaeval thinking, Latin puns, contemporary writings, links between different art forms… too esoteric for pub quizzes but great as conversation stoppers at dinner parties!
  4. Its a high quality book, in content and production

The book for review was supplied by the Publisher. Ask your stained glass merchant to get you a copy.

Detail from a Victorian Window
DECORATIVE GLASS of the 19th and Early 20th Centuries
Publisher: CS Graphics, ISBN 07153 1258 8, Priced at £16.99

Here is a fantastically produced paperback, at a very reasonable price that makes good reading for anyone interested in stained glass.

It is largely historical, covering many elements of how stained glass developed up to 1930, with lavish example illustrations. Areas covered are window panels as well as lamps and other early alternate uses of stained glass. Lots to inspire both professionals and amateurs, alike..

A Tiffany beauty discussed in the book
This looks to me to be a great reference book for placing stained glass in certain periods or influences, but also great for ideas and ways to produce an authentic result with a new project.

A wonderful gift for the stained glass artist who has everything. An interesting beautifully produced book

If you are a UK supplier, or a book publisher, and have a book that you would like us to review, please send the book to us with appropriate permissions. 
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