Reviews of The Search for Winchesterís Anglo-Saxon Minsters|
Reviewer: Ian Thumwood (5* review via www.amazon.co.uk)
Review: Prof Martin Biddle has been instrumental in much of the archaeology of Winchester's past. I bought this book after hearing him give a lecture in Winchester about the city's Early Medieval Past and the authority and clarity with which he presented his lecture on Winchester's Old Minster was the day's highlight for me.
I would have to say that this book really ticks all the boxes for me as a piece of historical writing. Given that Prof Biddle and his wife were responsible for the excavations which discovered the site in the 1960's, the detail about the archaeology is addressed in a thorough fashion. However, this book is much more than an account of this important archaeological dig as the author collates the historical sources and a series of lucid diagrams that not only capture the history and evolution of this building but also detail it's subsequent destruction. In some respects, it is also a building technology book too, Artifacts are both described and illustrated and the building it put firmly into the political context of the times. There are some terrific photos and excellent drawings which compliment the narrative.
I always think that it is almost criminal if a writer manages to make history seem uninteresting. For me, "Winchester's Anglo-Saxon Minsters " is a text book example of how history should be written. This is a book that can be appreciated by novice and expert alike and the text is extremely easy to follow. It is a book that anyone with an interest in Winchester's past will find difficult to put down. During the lecture, someone mentioned that there is a tendency to think of history starting in 1066 but this book and Prof Biddle's lecture really hits home just how sophisticated later Saxon Britain was. This is an inspirational book which did much to change my perception of the earlier Minster which was somewhat illusive and influenced by the pin drawings that can be found on the noticeboard adjacent the site. (They are produced on Page 66 - the colour drawings demonstrate just how much more we can now explain about this building. ) This book is remarkable because you get a real sense of the evolution of a building that was demolished about 950 years ago. After reading the book, I revisited the city museum and found myself able to more fully appreciate the context of many of the finds - a good proportion of which are described within this book.
In addition to the excellent text, it would be remiss of me to fail to mention Simon Hayfield's exceptional illustrations which bring the Minster to life at various points in it's evolution. The pictures not only show the exterior but give impressions of the interior of the minster too. The cut-away diagram is particularly impressive.
I would have to say that this book is so thorough and detailed that when I finished reading it, I felt that the account was not only exhuastive and that no stone had been left unturned but that it was difficult to believe that the building was no longer in existance. Simply put, this is authoritive and inspirational at the same time. I feel think book will set the standards of how historic buildings will be explained in the future. This is simply an exceptional piece of work.
Reviewer: Anna M (5* review via www.amazon.co.uk)
Review: Excellent, clear and readable account of Winchester's Saxon minsters.
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