London Books Roundup: October 2015

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By M@ Last edited 30 months ago
London Books Roundup: October 2015

Gothic for the Steam Age: An Illustrated Biography of George Gilbert Scott, Gavin Stamp

If you're wondering what to buy the architecture fan in your life for Christmas, look no further than this sumptuously illustrated guide to the patriarch of the Scott family. This is the man who gave us the fairy tale elevations of the St Pancras Midland Grand Hotel, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Albert Memorial and an estimated 800 other buildings beside. In short, Scott was Mr Victorian Architecture.

This is a book of two halves. The first part describes the life and work of George Gilbert Scott. The remainder serves as a pictorial guide to the architect's key works, in London, the wider UK and abroad. Both halves are brilliant, and both richly illustrated.

Scott was often vilified in his own lifetime. His church restorations were seen by some as vandalism; his original creations were lambasted as pastiche medieval frivolities, especially the overblown gothic of the Albert Memorial; and the sheer abundance of his creations (700-800 buildings) led many to believe that Scott delegated almost everything to his minions.

Author Gavin Stamp writes with character and opinion on his subject, rehabilitating Scott as one of the finest architects of his age. In truth, Scott no longer needs rehabilitation. Most people now agree that once-threatened buildings like his St Pancras hotel are among our most important architectural treasures. It is no longer deemed clever to ridicule the work of the man who celebrated the gothic in the age of the steam engine. Out now from Aurum Press.

The Crime Museum Uncovered, Jackie Keily and Julia Hoffbrand

The Crime Museum is Scotland Yard's teaching collection of objects relating to criminal activity in the capital. In its 140-year history, the macabre collection has never been open to the public. Now you can see some of the highlights at a five-star exhibition at Museum of London.

One of the few problems with show is its size. There's simply too much to see and read in one ticketed visit. This companion book is an excellent solution. It includes full-colour photographs of most, if not all of the objects from the exhibition, with accompanying text — allowing you to browse through this unique collection of crime history at your leisure. The guide is well produced and, at the museum price of a tenner for nearly 200 pages of colour photography, is something of a steal. Out now from IB Tauris.

London Stitch & Knit, Leigh Metcalf

Subtitled 'A Craft Lover's Guide to London's Fabric, Knitting and Haberdashery Shops', this colourful guide really gets under the cloth of the capital's crafting scene. Here you'll find all the help you need to track down the right vendors for your craft projects.

A bit more 'stitch' than 'knit', the book nevertheless seems to be pretty comprehensive. It's bang up to date, too. For example, we thought Nest in Crouch End had closed, but it turns out someone new took it over earlier this year, as recorded here. It's also a highly visual book, with lovely pictures. We particularly liked reading about the histories of the shops and their owners. Our one puzzlement was the section that looks beyond London. It contains just three shops. Surely there are more in the home counties worth covering? Otherwise, this is both a useful and beautiful guide to the capital's craft shops. Out now from Black Dog Publishing. (Review co-written by Heather Brown.)

More London's Strangest Tales, Tom Quinn

Mischievous readers might like to deliberately misconstrue the title of this book. Is this a collection of the strangest tales to come out of 'More London', the riverside location of City Hall and Boris Johnson's mayoral office? Alas, it's simply a sequel to London's Strangest Tales, Tom Quinn's rather good 2008 compendium of peculiar London anecdotes. This new volume offers up dozens of further curiosities from around town. Some are overly familiar (Postman's Park gets yet another outing), but most are a little more original. Meet a leapfrogging Bishop, discover why hedgehogs were once a favourite London pet, and find out which bit of London once held the longest rope in the world. Out now from The Robson Press.

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Last Updated 14 October 2015