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Arbie's Unoriginally Titled Book Blog

It's a blog! Mainly of book reviews.

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Bath, Michael Forsyth (Pevsner Guides)

Bath: Pevsner City Guide - Michael Forsyth

First, what this is not: It is not  a general tourist guide to Bath. You will need to look elsewhere if you want an account of all the various tourist attractions in the city, of which there are many.


Second, what it is: This book is part of the updating of the Pevsner Architectural Guides to Britain series being undertaken as a result of Yale University Press's acquisition of the rights to the series. The original series had only a chapter devoted to Bath.


And so to the review:


This book is excellent every way I look at it. It is intended as a practical guide i.e. one you can take with you as you explore the city and use to understand what you see. It's design meets this requirement - you can shove it in a jeans back-pocket, carry it in one hand or fit it in a handbag. You can probably get away without  a separate map but it might be handy to get one anyway, if you plan to do other touristy stuff.


You can find more atmospheric photos in several souvenir of Bath type books, but the photos here are required to be illustrative and they serve this function excellently. The maps are clear but quite small because of the page size - see above.


There is a comprehensive Introduction devoted to the architectural history of Bath, which touches on the general history of Bath, by necessity. It focuses on the Georgian period since the bulk of central Bath was built then.


Next comes a series of walks round the central parts of the city, taking in all the highlights and some of the horrors, as well as some fairly obscure gems. I've followed one of these walks and can say that one needs to keep ones wits or risk getting lost and that my attention was drawn to many details I probably would not have noticed unaided.


Next are the Excursions to outlying parts of the city that are not necessarily easy to get to on foot from the centre.


At the end are several useful features - a wide-ranging bibliography, not solely focused on the city's architecture, a useful illustrated glossary of architectural terms and a comprehensive index.


Whilst devoting most of the space to the buildings, various topic boxes and side notes discuss history, famous residents and so forth, somewhat lightening the dense descriptions of architectural details. Many of the buildings discussed are privately owned and it can be a bit frustrating to know that one can't necessarily access views of everything described, particularly interiors, but most of the exteriors can be seen from the streets.


The most impressive aspects of the book are the sheer quantity of information presented and the enormous effort that must have gone into researching the material in order to write it.


In conclusion, it must be a limited audience who want this much information about Bath architecture - but for those people, this is a truly excellent book.