An easy way to describe this book is as a veritable thing of beauty. Of course, this is to be expected of a publication which focuses on the themes of style and trend in wallpapers, and it is accordingly filled to the brim with colourful illustrations.
The emphasis on visual design is clear from the outset; this is an examination of the evolution of wallpaper as decoration and art-form, rather than an analysis of technical production or the specifics surrounding retail and consumption, each of which are only briefly touched upon. Even so, this itself is a broad subject, and in reality the book focuses on developments in western Europe and France in particular.
The subject is approached chronologically, encompassing the early origins of paper wall hangings through to revitalisation in the second half of the 20th century. All of this is supported by an excellent and extensive selection of images (on gratifyingly matte paper), many from the author’s own collection. The majority of these are full-page, allowing for a close appreciation of detail and colour, and there is a good mix of design images and views of papers in situ. The sheer number of images can detract from the narrative, and the absence of figure numbers is frustrating, but these are minor gripes. Overall the book offers a useful survey of the subject, and the ability to examine an incredibly wide variety of designs in remarkable detail.
Eleanor Brooke-Peat is Assistant Curator at Castle Howard and has a specialist interest in the decorative arts and historic interiors.
A more in-depth review of this book will be published in the next Wallpaper History Review. To purchase this book from the author, please follow this link