Antiques Book Reviews: Italian Ironwork; English Silver hallmarks


Get the feel of classical Italy with ‘Decorative Ironwork’

book review Decorative Ironwork of ItalyDecorative Ironwork of Italy by Augusto Pedrini

A recent addition to Schiffer Publishing’s ironwork design lineup is “Decorative Ironwork of Italy,” featuring photography by Augusto Pedrini. It is a picture book of hand wrought iron architectural details and embellishments from ancient towns in Italy. It joins these Schiffer volumes on Art Nouveau and Art Deco: “Art Nouveau Ironwork of Austria & Hungary,” by Federico Santi and John Gacher; “Art Deco Ironwork & Sculpture,” by “Jerry” S.F. Cook III and Tina Skinner; and “The Contemporary Blacksmith,” by Dona Z Meilach, which celebrates modern ironwork as a serious art form.

“Decorative Ironwork” includes 487 black and white detail photographs of gates, grilles, fireplace equipment and so on of identified Italian locations. These crisp, clear photographs will foster inspiration in photographers, blacksmiths, metalworkers and designers. Between these covers, you can see a diminutive key, or a hinge, or any number of elements as a piece of sculpture on its own.

This is an attractive and appealing oversized (12 inches by 9.2 inches) “coffee table” type book. The $45 price tag reflects the quality of the photography, the materials and the printing. Though originally published in 1929, the architectural design work and photography have an artistic quality that is “timeless,” and as relevant today as they were 80 years ago.

Decorative Ironwork of Italy
Augusto Pedrini, 2010, Schiffer Publishing, Ltd. Hardcover with dustjacket, 320 pages, ISBN: 978-0-7643-3399-6, 12 inches by 9.2 inches, $45,, 610-593-1777. Originally published 1929 by Ulrixo Hoepli as Il Ferro Battuto Sbalzato E Cesellato Nell’Arte Italiana.

‘Italian Ironwork’ best serves as a companion

book review Italian Ironwork: Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Neo Classical Giulio FerrariItalian Ironwork: Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Neo Classical by Giulio Ferrari

From the publisher: Italian ironwork from Roman times, through Medieval centuries, and up to Neo Classical designs of the early 19th century comprise this collection of 100 photographs from Italian sources. “Italian Ironwork: Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Neo Classical” depict trellises, grilles, gates, fencing, household lighting, fireplace accoutrements, and door hardware to inspire today’s designers. Their origins in hill towns of Italy are recorded in many images. This is authentic ironwork for contractors, decorators, and homeowners to enjoy.

What I found: The images have somewhat of a “washed out” look; I should think to get a really good feel for the ironwork and its details, the images should be crisp and clear. The Italian ironwork historian might find value in the pictured examples, which have brief location descriptions. However, there are no discussions of the various design styles. Overall, I would classify this book as a companion work: It would be a nice addition to a classical ironwork library, but would not stand well on its own.

If you’re shopping for an ironwork book for inspiration or for insight on historical architecture, this should be low on your priority list. There’s just not enough there to fully satisfy a need.

Italian Ironwork: Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Neo Classical
Giulio Ferrari, Schiffer Publishing, 2010. Hardcover, 112 pages, 8 1/2 inches by 11 inches,  $29.99;; ISBN: 978-0-7643-3560-0; 610-593-1777.

Tiny tome valuable silver primer

book review Discovering Hallmarks on English Silver by John BlyDiscovering Hallmarks on English Silver by John Bly

The importance of hallmarks cannot be overestimated: They allow us to calculate when and where an item of silverware was produced and the quality of the metal used. They give an instant provenance that makes silverware collecting very popular, but hallmarks were not invented for the collector’s benefit.

Originally published in 1968 and now in its ninth edition, John Bly’s “Discovering Hallmarks on English Silver” explains the creation of hallmarks as a legal requirement for monitoring silver quality and a means to trace those scorning government regulations. He describes the meaning and context of the marks, and outlines the styles and famous manufacturers through the centuries.

A useful reference table allows anyone to date and place their English-hallmarked silver, and helps make this a valuable introduction to the subject. The tiny tome also includes chapters on detecting fakes and alteration, famous makers and silver design styles.

John Bly works for his family business, John Bly Antiques, one of the oldest antiques firms in Britain (established in 1891), and is a regular contributor to the BBC’s “Antiques Roadshow.”

Discovering Hallmarks on English Silver
by John Bly, Shire Publications, 2010, $11.95, 4 1/2 inches by 7 inches, 72 pages, softcover, b&w

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