cover image Glass: A Short History

Glass: A Short History

David Whitehouse. Smithsonian (Random, dist.), $35 (128p) ISBN 978-1-58834-324-6

Despite the ubiquity of glass objects in our lives, “it is difficult to identify a book that provides a short, readable, overview” of the subject, argues Whitehouse (Roman Glass in the Corning Museum of Glass), senior scholar at the Corning Museum of Glass. Although this is not the most scintillating text, it does the job, while full-color photographs represent beautiful examples of glass objects from around the world. The discovery of glassblowing by the ancient Romans revolutionized production, but techniques of molding, casting, and core-forming glass produced unusual results, such as dimpled tableware of the fifth-century Achaemenids or slumped glass artwork from the 20th century. Glass decorating techniques distinguished glassworkers in the Hellenistic Mediterranean, who used multiple methods to create glass tableware, and also early-modern European glass etchers. Photo captions provide insight into how glassworkers made both the everyday and the extraordinary, from an Iranian molded tumbler to a pitcher cut with delicate green lines. Whitehouse concludes by remarking on the growth of glass as a medium for art and collectibles, and this book will certainly be welcomed by visitors to museums and galleries. Three pages of glossary and further reading round out this succinct presentation of a versatile medium for the utilitarian, decorative, and artistic. (May)