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Worldly Gardens

· Fine Book Collecting,Gardens,Kyoto,Venice,Lazio

Last night, I was writing up a gardening book to put up on the internet, Abebooks, and I thought it would make a nice musing topic. Today, I decided to do that along with two other gardening books. And I can write less and steal some description details from the on-line postings. One book on Japanese gardens and two on Italian gardens.

Courtyard Gardens of Kyoto’s Merchant Houses; Photographs and text by Katsuhiko Mizuno; translated by Lucy North; Kodansha International, Tokyo-New York-London, 2006. First edition. From the blurb – One of the pleasures of visiting Kyoto is to wander around picturesque streets lined with machiya, the traditional townhouses of the merchant class. Tucked away inside each of these unusually long, narrow dwellings are hidden oases: small gardens known as tsuboniwa. A total of 150 color images from 81 gardens bring the reader an unprecedented display of the flawless taste of Kyoto aesthetics. Each photograph is accompanied by analytical and insightful comments from the author, making this a useful reference book for all garden lovers, as well as a visual feast for all those with an interest in traditional Japanese design.

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We have quite a few books on Japanese topics, and a lot of them are high up on the gorgeous index, both from the subject matters and book quality perspectives.

Roman Gardens – Villas of the Countryside; Photographs by Roberto Schezen; Text by Marcello Fagiolo; The Monacelli Press, New York, 1977. From the blurb – “Mid-sixteenth-century Rome was home to a great number of nobles and cardinals, and one of their great pleasures was the creation of elaborate villas and gardens in the surrounding region of Lazio. This spectacular volume brings together twelve of those remarkable projects, many of which are closed to the public and shown here for the first time. Far more than places of retreat from the city, these villas had lofty intellectual and cultural aspirations and were designed by some of the most eminent practitioners of the day. The Roman elite followed a very old tradition. The patricians and aristocrats of ancient times – including the emperors Nero, Tiberius, and Domitian – built villas throughout Lazio.

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This is one of the most beautiful books in our house! There is as much of a focus on the statues, the tiles, the columns, the frescos and other human creations as on the plant life that is entwined with them, which together create a series of small magical kingdoms.

The Gardens of Venice; Text by Mary Jane Pool; Photographs by Alessandro Albrizzi; Introduction by Ileana Chiappini di Sorio; Rizzoli, New York, 1989. From the blurb – The intoxicating mood of Venice is captured in this book of gardens, offering a rare look into the private enclosures of the founding families of the Venetian Republic – the Contarinis, the Giustinianis, and the Mocenigos among them. Beautiful courtyards, terraces, rooftop altane, vineyards, and formal parks and gardens throughout the city and on the surrounding islands of the lagoon are explored through the camera of Alessandro Albrizzi, and through drawings and plans from museums and family archives in the introduction by art historian Ileana Chiappini di Sorio. From Casanova’s vineyard and Napolean’s Public Gardens to Peggy Guggenheim’s art-filled courtyard and the architectural landscapes designed by Carlo Scarpa, many of the gardens in Venice are reflections of a creative approach to outdoor life among the celebrated individuals who have contributed to the city’s mystique and have made it one of the world’s most cherished places.

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This is the book that I was working on yesterday. I love Venice, the setting of Donna Leon’s Commissario Brunetti series, and it truly is a mystical/moody place.

And I think this book of photographs set in Venice is unique out of the thousands of other such, similar sized photograph laden books - 270 pages. Venice, a city of canals with hundreds of picturesque bridges, criss-crossing canals everywhere, and flotillas of gondolas. In this book, you can see portions of canals in 9 photos but there is not a bridge or a gondola in the whole book!

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