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Book reviews — June 1982

Early Industrial Housing — The Trinity Area of Frome by Roger Leech
HMSO £6.95
This slim volume documents an important area of late 17th/early 18th c. housing in the woollen town of Frome, Somerset, investigated by the RCHM in great detail-in the 1970's, Building types and characteristic features and the historical context are outlined and detailed descriptions in the Commission's established tradition are given, with measured plans and elevations. Not directly relevant to London, but this book is of general interest for techniques of recording and presentation. (Ron Fitzgerald's monograph on the Liverpool Road Station, Manchester [1980], was No. 1 in the new series of which this is No. 3). Malcolm Tucker

Buildings for the Age — New Building Types 1900-1939 by Alastair Forsyth
HMSO £4.95
This is No. 2 of another new series, which draws on the extensive photographic archive of the National Monuments Record and it is the first publication of the Commission to be concerned exclusively with the 20th century. Nearly 100 splendid photographs illustrate the unfettered building styles evolved for motor garages, airfields, power stations, swimming baths, cinemas, film studios and similar applications. Apart from some textual inaccuracies, my only disappointment is that the book is not twice as long, but one cannot grumble at the price. Many of the sites are in London. (The first in this series, published in 1981, deals, admirably with Hotels & Restaurants from the 1830s to the 1960s). Malcolm Tucker

A London Album by Roger Whitehouse
Published by Seeker & Warburg at £5.95
A London Album is only another book of old photographs, but what a fine collection of them, what a big book (309 pages of A4+) and what a bargain at £5.95. All the favourites are here from the Pie Maker in Greenwich Church Passage in 1885 to traffic at Ludgate Circus in 1897, but there are many less familiar photographs and most of them are of great IA interest. The author claims to have looked at tens of thousands of photographs and it looks as if he had difficulty in choosing, for even the title and index pages have extra pictures stuffed in. I wouldn't place too much reliance on the captions and text, but that is not what you would buy this book for, it's all those marvellous old photos which will repay scrutiny with a magnifying glass. Brenda Innes

Diesel, The Man and the Engine by Norton Grosser
David & Charles 1980 £7.50
To many steam railway enthusiasts Dr. Diesel and Dr. Beeching are "among the great villains of history even the average industrial archaeologist views Rudolf Diesel with some suspicion. This readable account of the life and work of Dr. Diesel should dispel some prejudice — after all he might be compared with James Watt and the Stephensons. Since its introduction from 1897 Diesel's super-efficient engine — inspired by the ideas of Sadi Carnot — has become an increasingly important prime mover and is likely to become even more important as the energy crisis worsens. One of the few recent more engineers whose name is a household word, Diesel is something of a tragic figure. Less well known than his efficient engine are the introverted childhood in Paris where he haunted the Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers (a dingy equivalent of the South Kensington Science Museum), the inability to handle money and his enigmatic exit from life.

Dr. Grosser has worked in engineering and has written for The Atlantic, Harper's and the New Yorker, as well as having published four books. This book is difficult to put down, except towards the end where the author becomes perhaps rather too much of a motor car 'buff', at least for non-North American readers. GLIAS members may be somewhat distressed by the author's apparent lack of background when dealing with the Newcomen engine at the start of Chapter 4. Dr Grosser appears to imply that a Newcomen engine was commonly attached to a pump of the modern kind and not to a great weight of pump rods, in a mine shaft. However, a Cornish mining background is not strictly necessary for the book's subject and this is a very minor blemish. In its emphasis of the energy crisis towards, the end of the book it is very, much a product of its time. However, the late 19th century continental atmosphere of the story of Rudolf Diesel seems to come over very well despite the author's American nationality. The discussion of the diesel engine itself is non-technical and should not deter the average reader. Undoubtedly 'Diesel, the man and the engine' is not the definitive work on so tremendous a theme but it can be highly recommended as an introduction to the subject. Bob Carr

© GLIAS, 1982