I wrote a little bit about this new book in December, but it deserves a lot more ink as it has been a near-constant companion since I received it.
“Irish Country Furniture and Furnishings 1700-2000” (Cork University Press) by Claudia Kinmonth is a complete update to her 1993 book with a similar title. That 1993 book became difficult to find at a sensible price, and so this new version is most welcome.
If you have any interest in traditional crafts, furniture or utensils, you will love this book. It is filled with hundreds of full-color photos of beds, spoons, stools, chairs, settles and dressers. But it is not merely a picture book. Kinmonth’s sharp text puts the pieces in context using historical records, poems, historical illustrations, paintings and vintage photos of Irish interiors.
So much of this wonderful historical stuff has disappeared in Ireland. Old pieces were discarded for modern steel and linoleum. Many of the traditional cottages have disappeared. And the people who made them left Ireland in waves (many of them settling here in the United States). This Irish history is an important part of America’s history, as so many of us have Irish blood.
Last year, Lucy and I toured Ireland for a week and spent most of our time exploring museums and places that specialized in the decorative arts. So there are some familiar pieces in this book. But Kinmonth has uncovered many new finds. Things you’ll never see on the Internet.
That trip filled my sketchbook with drawings of vernacular pieces, everything from settles that convert to a bed to Sugan chairs to mealbins. This book supplied even more gorgeous examples for inspiration.
Also important to note: as a physical object the book is nice. The interior is printed on a quality, bright, coated paper. The signatures are sewn for durability. And the cloth-covered boards are wrapped with a dust jacket. It is absolutely worth the retail price.
— Christopher Schwarz