There's a lot of information packed into this short book, and yet I found it somewhat disappointing. There was more focus on the administration of theThere's a lot of information packed into this short book, and yet I found it somewhat disappointing. There was more focus on the administration of the medieval building process than I'd anticipated, and less on the actual techniques and materials employed by the masons and sculptors. I think if I'd approached this as a straight up medieval architecture book (rather than part of the "Medieval Craftsmen" series) I would have been delighted with it.
The writing was dense at times, possibly a result of the author having so much expertise in the topic that she's having a hard time compressing it into such a short book, but there are also moments when she brings medieval construction to life. The segment on the different types of vaults is particularly rewarding, as are the last few pages, about sculptural techniques.
Despite the occasional density of her prose, she does craft some very astute and memorable phrases, for instance, "a large medieval building is, to modern eyes, a breathtaking triumph of skill over probability. A Gothic great church in particular looks at once dangerously fragile for its size and heavy enough to defy all the laws of structural stability." That sums things up nicely.
The illustrations are exceptionally well chosen; my only grouse is that the photo credits in the back make it very difficult to match the source to the illustration, and give only the minimum of information. Many come from medieval manuscripts, and I'd have liked more context about those sources in particular, but this is after all a short work. I'm looking forward to reading more of her work (and listening to the recording of her Hay Festival lecture about Medieval Craftsmen in Wales), as well as more books from this series....more