CATHEDRALS IN BRITAIN AND IRELAND: From Early Times to the Reign of Henry VIII, by William Anderson and Clive Hicks (Scribner's, $17.50). The authors of this affectionate little volume describe it as "a portrait gallery" of cathedrals, and indeed it is something like the exhibit you'd expect a good museum to mount. An initial run-through of the history of cathedrals -- that is, of Celtic and Roman Catholicism -- in the British Isles up to the Reformation, and a quick summary of the characteristics of Romanesque and Gothic architecture, serve as the overview. Next, there is an alphabetical parade of cathedrals, photographed outside and in, accompanied by quick histories and descriptions. There is some pleasant informality in these "portraits" ("St. Frideswide was a nun who suffered from the attentions of a Saxon chieftain who was struck blind when he set out to rape her") and some tongue-twisting rushes of emotion ("Durham is a living presence, the evidence in stone of men who made conquests of the intellect, heart and will in regions of human capacity of which it is one of the purposes of great art to remind us"). This might be a good gift for an embarking traveler.