THE COMPANION TO ROSES
by John Fisher
(Salem House, $24.95).
Fisher's alphabetical listings cover everything from the Christmas rose (which isn't one) to Der Rosenkavalier. An encyclopedia which is as happily eccentric as it is informative, the illustrations include roses painted by both Redoute and Alfred Parsons.
A GARDEN OF ROSES
by Alfred Parsons and Graham Stuart Thomas
(Salem House, $29.95).
For more of Parsons delicate watercolors, one must turn to this book, a compendium of the paintings which Parsons did for gardener Ellen Willmott in the beginning years of the century. The lovely watercolors are accompanied by comments from that expert rosarian, Graham Stuart Thomas, whose sensible descriptions of the roses pictured will prevent the reader from becoming too intoxicated with the lovely illustrations. Parson's Rosa Foetida, Thomas reminds us, is a lovely thing but, "In gardens it is rather gaunt and open in habit and resents being pruned."
THE BOOK OF CLASSIC OLD ROSES
by Trevor Griffiths
(Michael Joseph, London, $22.95).
Also lavishly illustrated, with photographs this time, but this album is rather too much of a good thing, the layout being too busy and the accompanying text sketchy.
THE COUNTRY GARDEN
by John Brookes (Crown, $30).
Garden designer John Brookes is the sort of comforting gardener who makes everything look easy and in The Country Garden he shows what can be done in a garden where space is not a problem (in an earlier book, he led readers through a variety of small landscapes). Handsomely illustrated, it is a book of ideas, and though there is some specific information about plants and soil, its primary purpose is to show what can be done, rather than how to do it.
THE YEAR AT GREAT DIXTER
by Christopher Lloyd
(Elisabeth Sifton/Viking, $24.95).
For how to do it, one must turn to Christopher Lloyd. In this book that eminent plantsman and respected garden writer leads the reader through a year in his garden. Yes, it's been done before, but rarely better than by Lloyd, who knows that a garden is exactly the right place to exercise crotchets and prejudices. "My mother doted on irises and used to accept gifts of bearded varieties, which, in bloom, swept her off her feet. This made me cross," writes Lloyd in the strong voice his readers have come to expect and enjoy.
THE RHS ENCYCLOPEDIA OF HOUSE PLANTS
by Kenneth A. Beckett
(Salem House, $34.95).
Beckett's book lacks that eccentric voice, and well it should. It is a classic reference book for the indoor gardener, produced in association with the Royal Horticultural Society and once the reader masters the little coded pictures which tell whether the plant wants sun or shade, moisture of dryness, it is an invaluable reference.
LEAVES FROM THE GARDEN
edited by Clare Best and Caroline Boisset
Here is yet another collection of the writings of famous gardeners. Some are dated, some are merely tedious, and some are no longer practical, such as William Gilpin's early 19th-century description of how to lay out "the dress ground immediately connected with the house." But the book is a useful introduction to long-gone gardeners; if you don't like them in short form, you won't enjoy the longer works. And it is almost worth the price of the whole book to meet again that witty garden writer Beverley Nichols as he tries to shoo cats from his garden: "I tried opening the window and saying, 'boo! damn! shish!' followed by a scraping noise in the throat. This appeared to please the cats greatly. A look of dreamy ecstasy came into their eyes, and they gravely seated themselves, waiting for more. 'Hosh! Hell! Boo! Blast! Shish!' I yelled. Better and better, thought the cats."
GARDENS OF THE ITALIAN VILLAS
by Marella Agnelli (Rizzoli, $50).
This is a picture book of the disciplined and formal gardens of Italy, with their weathered statues and carefully controlled greenery. It is for the gardener who considers mother nature an adversary to be beaten back into place, or for the tourist who would like to travel to Italy without having to cross the Atlantic.
Tooth and Nail
SHARKS: A Photographer's Story
by Jeremy Stafford-Deitsch
(Sierra Club Books, $19.95).
British-born Stafford-Deitsch has been snorkeling since he was a child. Later he added scuba-diving, zoology and photography to his battery of skills, and this book is an outgrowth of his multiple interests. In addition to a fine gallery of shark snaps, there are bonus shots of other creatures, notably the horrible demon stinger, a fish as well-barbed as a prickly pear cactus.
by various contributors
(Facts on File, $29.95).
In contrast to Stafford-Deitsch's one-man shark show, this is a survey course, with chapters mostly contributed by American and Australian scientists. The photographs highlight aspects of the shark that no single cameraman could readily encompass: a closeup, for example, of the tiger shark's cutting teeth, notched and serrated like the border of a busy arabesque.
by Steve and Yogi Kaufman
After retiring from the Navy, Yogi Kaufman decided that his son, Steve, was onto a good thing: roaming the world to photography wild places and creatures. Their Alaskan work is lovingly reproduced in this handsome book by a publisher in Charlottesville, Virginia. The bookmakers' attentiveness is manifest in small but pleasing touches: on the page facing a photo of an electric-green aurora borealis, the oversized initial capital letter appears in a complementary shade of moss-green.
FROM THE WILD
edited by Christopher Hume
Here, gathered in one sumptuous volume, is a sampling of work by a dozen contemporary North American wildlife painters. They include big names like Roger Tory Peterson of bird-book fame, Robert Bateman with his knack for depicting animals in their habitats, and Glen Loates, the dean of predator portraitists.
THE AFRICAN SAFARI: The Ultimate Wildlife and Photographic Adventure
by P. Jay Fetner
(St. Martin's, $60).
Heavy enough for weightlifters, this elephantine tome by a Washington businessman demonstrates that safaris aren't just for killing: photographing wild animals can be their raison d'e~tre. One of the most telling photo sequences features a pride of lions, sleeping carelessly -- for what should they fear except man, whom they scarcely know? -- in the midday shade. Included are a lengthy bibliography and a short glossary of Swahili, the lingua franca of safari country.
IN THE SHADOW OF FUJISAN: Japan and Its Wildlife
by Jo Steward-Smith, with photographs by Simon McBride
Westerners tend to think of Japan as crowded and tamed, but it harbors 130 mammalian species alone, two-thirds of them endemic -- that is, found nowhere else in the world. Focusing on one such species, the Japanese macaque monkey, and two migrants, the red-crowned crane and the loggerhead sea turtle, this companion volume to a BBC television series urges the Japanese to improve upon their mixed conservation record.
LIVING TREASURES: An Odyssey Through China's Extraordinary Nature Reserves
by Tan Xiyang
Even veteran wildlife watchers will likely discover new species to ogle in this book, the first co-publishing venture between an American and a Chinese firm. Giant salamanders, sunbirds as iridescent as neon tetras, great gray herons, ghizou gold monkeys, the Yangtze alligator -- these are only a smattering of the rarely-seen creatures pictured and discussed in Tang Xiyang's odyssey.
READY ALL! George Yeoman Pocock and Crew Racing
by Gordon Newell
(University of Washington Press. P.O. Box 50096, Seattle, Wash. 98145; $19.95).
When you admire an eight-oared shell skimming along the Potomac in the early morning mist, thank George Yeoman Pocock, at least partially, for its being there. Pocock, a boat builder and a coach, deserves much of the credit for the popularity of rowing in America today. Although he was an Englishman transplanted to the American West, his influence is also felt on the East Coast where in the early 1980s more than half of American college crew coaches were former oarsmen from the University of Washington. Pocock coached there and also built boats for half a century, retiring in 1963. His boats, now manufactured by his son, are still popular with high school and college crews. This heavily illustrated biography is a tribute to Pocock, to rowing and also to the University of Washington. In many ways it's an inspirational book. For Pocock, who grew up on the Thames, the son of a boat builder at Eton, rowing was more than a sport. It was a religion and a character builder. He was fond of telling the University of Washington crews, that he'd never known an oarsman to be a "loser in life."
PORTRAITS OF EARTH
by Freeman Patterson
(Sierra Club, $35).
The best buy of the new photo books in terms of price, content and reproduction quality is this unusual collection of brilliantly colorful landscapes and landforms by Freeman Patterson. These are not the usual pretty images but rather a series of bold photographs, which are more about form and texture than content. Patterson, in a departure from the let-the-picture-say-it-all school, explains why he made each image. He writes about seeing, about allowing images to present themselves instead of bringing preconceived notions of what a picture should be to the photographic subject. It is a provocative essay for the serious photographer and an important guide for the beginner.
by David Graham
Remember those awful summer vacations you took with your parents, stopping at every tourist attraction and then visiting your Aunt Sue? David Graham has captured the surreal experience of those times in his first book. Reminiscent of Chevy Chase's movie National Lampoon's Vacation, Graham also toured the country finding the obscure trailer park, desert playground and drive-in theater. The most delightful of his color images is of a small child pretending to paddle a rowboat that is positioned below two billboard-sized jumping fish at the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame in Howard, Wis. He also convinced a lot of average-looking Americans to pose in their wet bathing suits or backyard attire. It is a book that will make you smile.
THE PANORAMIC PHOTOGRAPHY OF EUGENE O. GOLDBECK
by Clyde W. Burleson and E. Jessica Hickman
(University of Texas Press, $75).
Probably one of the most difficult photo books to produce is one on panoramic photography because the size of the original contact prints often measures more than five feet. Twenty of Eugene O. Goldbeck's 72 high-quality and well-detailed images in this extraordinary book are reproduced in double and triple foldout pages which result in three- to four-foot images. Pictures range from dozens of 1922 bathing beauties in Galveston, Texas to the entire 1941 Second Armored Division of Ft. Benning, Georgia. Goldbeck, who was approaching 90 and still making pictures when interviewed for the book, pioneered much of the camera equipment and darkroom systems for dealing with the oversized negatives. His images are clear, sharp and distortion-free. His book introduces the almost-lost art of panoramic photography to a generation who missed posing for Goldbeck.
HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON: The Early Work
by Peter Galassi
(Musuem of Modern Art, $35).
The master of the "decisive moment" school of photography, the reclusive Henri Cartier-Bresson is the subject of this photo book by the curator of the department of photography at the Museum of Modern Art, Peter Galassi. It was published in conjunction with a show of both paintings and photographs by Cartier-Bresson done between 1932 and 1934. Galassi documents in pictures and words what he considers Cartier-Bresson's most creative period, when the photographer thought of himself as as a surrealist painter and photographer instead of as a photojournalist. It is a fascinating and heretofore unidentified period of Cartier-Bresson's life when he made many of the photographs for which he is justifiably famous.
by Eliot Porter
(New York Graphic Society, $75).
Eliot Porter's new book of luscious color landscapes returns the photographer to his rightful postion as one of the masters of color photography. Sometimes considered out of fashion by his critics, Porter in this retrospective book of 162 color and black-and-white images shows his consistant and careful work over a period of 50 years. Printed in conjunction with a show of his work at the Amon Carter Museum in Ft. Worth, the book is a detailed autobiography of a man who spent 10 years as a research scientist before becoming a serious photographer in 1939. And it was a chance meeting with Ansel Adams at a dinner party that caused Porter to switch to large format cameras and to evolve a style of carefully composed images of vegatation, trees, rivers and mountains.
STOPPING TIME: The Photographs of Harold Edgerton
by Estelle Jussim
Here is the photo book that explains how Harold Edgerton created the gee-whiz pictures that are more famous than he is. It was Edgerton, an MIT electrical engineer who invented the invaluable synchronized strobe light, who made the picture of a bullet piercing an apple, a drop of milk forming a coronet and the first microseconds of an atomic explosion. "Anything that moves is my game," he said and indeed for more than 50 years, it has been the movement of dancers, acrobats, tennis players, golfers and children at play that have fascinated him. This is not a traditonal photo book but Edgerton's images that document everything from the vibrations of an engine to the wiggles of tiny marine organisms, are decidedly a visual delight.
MOTHERS & DAUGHTERS: That Special Quality
with introduction by Tillie Olsen
It is an uninspiring title and dust jacket cover for a remarkable book on the subject of the relationship between generations of women. This collection of 84 images by a variety of photographers is teamed with essays, poems and short stories by a dozen authors. There are loving pictures of mothers and daughters embracing and rigidly stiff pictures of others who appear not to have spoken in years. The book is a satisfying combination of images and words that makes an ordinary subject extraordinarily interesting. Aperture identifies a team as producing the book: The team did a great job. Maybe next year they will delight us with a book on fathers and sons.
THE LEGACY OF LIGHT
edited by Constance Sullivan with photographs by 58 photographers
More than 200 Polaroid photographs in this beautifully printed book prove the versatility of the "instant" picture. Produced by the Polaroid Corporation, it is essentially a book about images rather than the equipment and special film pioneered by the company. When first introduced, Polaroid pictures were seen as a gimmick, a play thing. But in the hands of competent photographers, they became another way of producing quality images. Sullivan has included Polaroid pictures made by such notable photographers as Ansel Adams, Paul Caponigro, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Immogene Cummingham and Andre Kertesz. In most cases their style of shooting is immediately identifiable, only the medium has changed. But it is the fun of the instant picture which comes through in the work of Danny Lyon, who makes street and beach scenes into three-picture images, and David Hockney, who produced 90-picture portraits.
Teaching a Stone to Speak
by Pontus Hulten, Natalia Dumitresco and Alexandre Istrati
No visitor to Peggy Guggenheim's villa in Venice ever forgets a first glimpse of Brancusi's famous Bird in Space -- a single, feather-like sweep of golden metal, springing forth from its base, smooth, curved, graceful, the Platonic ideal of flight. This Brancusi album -- 602 illustrations, including 64 color plates -- moves from the scholarly to the personal, providing a full introduction to all aspects of the sculptor. Hulten, former director of the Pompidou Centre in Paris, delivers an authoritative account of the artist's esthetic, from the lessons of Fauvism and Cubism, through the concerted effort to document his work through photography (taught to him by Man Ray), to his absolute principle of simplicity. Much of Brancusi's work, while completely itself, nonetheless recalls African sculpture in its totemic, sometimes phallic character, though some shapes suggest the smooth, maternal forms of Henry Moore. Dumitresco and Istrati, longtime companions of the sculptor, supplement the art-historical pages with memories of Brancusi at work.
AFRICAN ART IN THE CYCLE OF LIFE
by Roy Sieber and Roslyn Adele Walker
(Smithsonian Institution Press, $39.95; paperback, $19.95).
The works in this show -- part of the inaugural exhibitions for the National Museum of African Art -- seek to show how much art, largely sculpture, was laced into African life. Sieber and Walker, both scholars at the museum, provide an excellent introduction to the social, as well as esthetic aims of tribal artists. They do make clear the dangers of oversimplification, for the exhibit represents peoples of an entire continent, a continent, moreover, of extreme diversity and complexity. Wood, terra cotta, metal, stone, feathers, fiber, fur, hair, beads and jewels are only some of the materials used to construct fertility figures, monsters, masks, gods, head dresses and ritual artifacts. Following Borges' dictum -- that great artists create their predecessors -- these African pieces inevitably recall sculpture by Picasso and Brancusi, who were in fact influenced by their first appearance in the west early in this century. A very good book, scholarly, enthusiastic, and informative.
photographed by Herbert Matter;
text by Mercedes Matter
Giacometti's pencil-thin, pockmarked figures striding toward nowhere have been called the sculptural analogues of Samuel Beckett. Photographer Herbert Matter has long admired Giacometti, and in this album -- obviously the fruit of many years' meditation -- attempts to capture with his camera the look and feel of the sculptural work. At times Matter zeroes in on just a head, at other times a sculpture may stand quietly alone or stare resolutely out of the page, sometimes the light is blinding, sometimes the figures stalk into shadow. Obviously, Giacometti's sculpture here serves as a model as much as a subject -- and this freedom may not please his other admirers, who may feel that here is less reverence than lese` majeste'. Be that as it may, the book is stunning to look at, with 180 duotone photographs and 45 plates in color. -- Michael Dirda
The High and The Mighty
THE SMITHSONIAN BOOK OF FLIGHT
by Walter J. Boyne
Here is how canny Orville Wright replied to a question about the future of aviation, "I cannot answer except to assure you that it will be spectacular." Much of that spectacle is contained in this volume by the former director of the National Air and Space Museum. It combines paintings, photographs and the author's expert knowledge to survey the history of flight. From the cover painting of the U.S. Navy's Curtiss NC-4, the first airplane to cross the Atlantic (eight years, mind you, before Lindbergh), to the color photographs of the latest air-flow experiments, this is a trove of aeronautical lore.
GHOSTS: Vintage Aircraft of World War II
by Philip Makanna with a foreword by Chuck Yeager
(Thomasson-Grant, $36) and
CLASSICS: U.S. Aircraft of World War II
by Mark Meyer
Laugh if you will. There are plenty of grown-ups around who can get surprisingly emotional about vintage airplanes. They will tell you, with a catch in their throat, that the most beautiful aircraft ever built was a Spitfire, the fighter that won the Battle of Britain. Or they might say that the Douglas Dauntless won the war in the Pacific, and tell you about the flight deck of an aircraft carrier at sunset when, as one pilot says here, the gun crews "talk in softer voices . . . and think of the things their mothers believe are always in their minds." Here are the Allied and enemy planes of World War II, in full warpaint. Photographed in color, as they are here, they are -- there is no other word -- beautiful.
Family of Man
VANISHING TRIBES: Primitive Man on Earth
by Alain Chene`viere
Punan tribespeople of Borneo elongate their earlobes with weights. Women of the Mursi people in Ethiopia achieve ritual scarring by puncturing themselves and inserting wood slivers under their skin. Women of the Akha people, who live in the mountains of Thailand, Burma, and Laos wear beaded bonnets that can weigh up to 11 pounds. Such people are impelled to undergo these discomforts by the spirts that, they believe, dwell among them, and Alain Chenevie`re, a French ethnologist, has been impelled to live among and photograph more than 200 primitive tribes. The result is this volume of stunning but poignant photos, every one depicting a way of life on the edge of obliteration.
text by Walter F. Morris Jr.,
photographs by Jeffrey J. Foxx
Though their pyramid-proud civilization collapsed a millennium ago, the Mayan people endure -- about 4 million of them in the highlands of southern Mexico and Central America. This collaboration recounts their history and portrays their accommodation with contemporary culture. They watch television and practice Christianity; they drive cars but painstakingly weave into their textiles the same intricate designs as those worn by their royal ancestors.
VESTIGES OF A PROUD NATION
edited by Glenn E. Markoe
(Robert Hull Fleming Museum/distributed by the University of Nebraska Press, $35; paperback, $20).
The vestiges of the title -- clothing and artifacts -- constitute the artistic legacy of the Sioux, who dominated the Great Plains by dint of skill at warfare and sheer numbers. The reader is struck by how colorfully the Sioux dressed -- in moccasins festooned with grizzly bear claws and crisscrossed by ruby-red and powder-blue beads; in shirts trimmed with blue-bead piping and hair-knot fringe. The items pictured in the text are gathered in the Ogden B. Read Northern Plains Indian Collection. Ironically, the collection arrived in Burlington, Vt., where it still resides, in 1881, the same year one of this volume's historical essayists counts as the last for unadulterated Sioux culture.
Leaves From Their Journals
SOPHIE DU PONT: A Young Lady in America, Sketches, Diaries, Letters 1823-1833
by Betty-Bright Low and Jacqueline Hinsley
A charming volume assembled from drawings and documents heretofore scattered amidst two du Pont family archives and now brought together for the first time. Sophie, born in 1810 to a French family only a decade in this country (though soon to grow powerful), was a droll observer of the world around her. Her predominantly female subjects take waltzing lessons, clamber over fences in bonnet and skirts, chase mice, struggle with rubber boots, swim and swing, make wine, and, in general, are a pretty energetic group. In addition, she's a vivid and amusing letter-writer. Here's a vignette from a steamboat ride: "The groans of the ladies, the squalling of the babies, the rattling of teacups, plates and knives, assailed the ear with a hideous din -- while our sense of smelling was no less molested by the perfume of salt fish, peppermint, fried ham, and other nameless odours as various as disgusting . . ." Social history buffs will certainly find this glimpse into Jacksonian America a treat.
MAUD: The Illustrated Diary of a Victorian Woman
adapted by Flora Fraser; introduction by Elizabeth Longford
(Chronicle Books, $19.95).
It's not that these contemporary sketchbook accounts of a bygone world aren't quaintly interesting, it's getting harder to tell them apart or to remember who went on what picnic or whose hat blew off in the breeze! This one's a family affair; that is to say, the "adaptor," Flora Fraser, is the granddaughter of Lady Longford, the "introducer," but their relationship to Maud Berkeley, if any, isn't made clear, nor do we know, then, how the project found its way to them. Nonetheless, the pictures are enchantingly full of detail and Berkeley, thanks heavens, is capable of more than the occasional irony. Covering 13 years in her life -- maiden to mother -- our Maud goes to regattas, pantomines, even a Jewish wedding, then ends her diary-keeping with the "patter of tiny feet."
Strike Up The Band
THE MUSIC MEN: An Illustrated History of Brass Bands in America, 1800-1920
by Margaret Hindle Hazen and Robert M. Hazen
(Smithsonian, $39.95; paperback, $19.95).
Books like this are the reason publishers like the Smithsonian Institution Press exist. Purely commercial publishers would run away screaming at the idea of printing century-old pictures of small-town brass bands from Vermont and Colorado, pages of illustrations from the catalogues of horn manufacturers, the concert program for Feb. 6, 1884 at the Worcester, Mass., skating rink and pictures of bandstands "found in every state of the Union in a wide variety of architectural styles." But for the true band enthusiast, listener or (more often) player, this is a treasure trove. It not only excites nostalgia for a time when brass bands were the heart and soul of grass-roots music-making in this country; it supplies a wealth of information on the people who played in these bands, their social functions, the kind of music they played and the instruments on which they played it.
CARNEGIE HALL: The First One Hundred Years
by Richard Schickel and Michael Walsh
Carnegie Hall may be one of the most beautiful-sounding buildings in the world (it is certainly one of the top five or 10), but one might wonder whether that qualifies it as a subject for a picture book. The answer embodied in these 263 pages is that it certainly does, if you include in the subject matter those who have performed there. The list includes virtually all the world's notable musicians since Tchaikovsky, who conducted at the inaugural concert and who is pictured next to a reproduction of the New York Herald's story on the gala opening. From there on, it is page after page of faces dear to the hearts of music-lovers: Melba, Toscanini, Kreisler and hundreds of others up to Itzhak Perlman, a crutch under his left arm, taking a final bow after a recital. But there are also non-musicians: Isadora Duncan, who danced there; Edward G. Robinson, Spencer Tracy and Robert Redford, who studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts on the Carnegie Hall premises. Maria Callas gets a two-page spread, Marlene Dietrich only a column, and the Weavers (all four of them, looking very young) have to squeeze into a passport-size photo, but the pictures and the accompanying text have a satisfying inclusiveness. This is not primarily a book to be read though it is pleasant browsing, and not really a book for anyone except those who love pictures of performing artists. But it does have a few pictures of broader interest -- for example, a photo from the 1880s showing people skating in Central Park and the Dakota standing all alone in the background.