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Marcus Berkmann selects the illustrated books of the year 

Travel

Marcus Berkmann selects the illustrated books of the year 

BIG

by Marko Dimitrijevic and Amos Nachoum (teNeues £50, 256pp)

At more than a foot long and nearly as wide, this is not one to be read idly on public transport or without some hefty lifting equipment, but the animals, none small, are not stinted by the book’s outlandish proportions

Subtitled A Photographic Album Of The World’s Largest Animals, this enormous volume rather does what it says on the tin. 

At more than a foot long and nearly as wide, this is not one to be read idly on public transport or without some hefty lifting equipment, but the animals, none small, are not stinted by the book’s outlandish proportions. Dimitrijevic and Nachoum, wildlife photographers with 70 years’ experience between them, have pooled their portfolios and produced a book of rare wonder. 

They explain in their introduction that ‘unlike most photo books, emotions are its organising principle’, and I think it’s fair to say that anyone still in touch with their inner five-year-old will be blown away by what they have accomplished. Chapter titles include Awe & Gratitude, Respect & Fear and Love & Enchantment, as well they might

Paul

by Harry Benson (Taschen £50, 172pp)

Most of Harry Benson’s photos are from the 1960s and 1970s — peak Paul, we now realise — with the Beatles, with Wings and with his family, for Paul was a famously dedicated family man

Most of Harry Benson’s photos are from the 1960s and 1970s — peak Paul, we now realise — with the Beatles, with Wings and with his family, for Paul was a famously dedicated family man

If anyone has been photographed nearly as much as the late Queen, it’s Paul McCartney, who has been doing his thumbs-up sign for passing snappers for more than 60 years now.

Most of Harry Benson’s photos are from the 1960s and 1970s — peak Paul, we now realise — with the Beatles, with Wings and with his family, for Paul was a famously dedicated family man. Not a bad skillset to have when you are also recording one or two albums a year and touring the world every five minutes.

The music, as we know, bears up as well as anyone’s (and rather better than that of his fellow ex-Beatles, I would say), but the pics are lovely. There’s one of the infant Stella sitting on Paul’s lap, as he plays a piano and composes another worldwide hit (possibly), that will squeeze the heart of every father of daughters. Lovely stuff.

Country Church Monuments

by C. B. Newham (Particular £40, 728pp)

He visited 9,000 rural parish churches and has come up with his best 365 monuments, one for every day of the year

He visited 9,000 rural parish churches and has come up with his best 365 monuments, one for every day of the year

If you are the sort of person who cannot resist going inside a country church to nose around, this is the book for you. It is, very simply, an illustrated history of the country church monuments of England and Wales, with detailed descriptions, short biographies of the sculptors (if known) and magnificent colour photographs of every one. Newham says his principal aim is ‘to bring to a wider audience the monumental treasures to be found in churches and to encourage more people to visit and enjoy them’.

He visited 9,000 rural parish churches and has come up with his best 365 monuments, one for every day of the year. This is a true labour of love and one of the most wonderful books I have ever seen.

A Very British Picnic

(Hoxton £17.95, 144 pp)

Here’s the latest — the 11th, no less — in Hoxton Mini Press’s superb series of books of photographs of Brits enjoying themselves through the ages

Here’s the latest — the 11th, no less — in Hoxton Mini Press’s superb series of books of photographs of Brits enjoying themselves through the ages

Here’s the latest — the 11th, no less — in Hoxton Mini Press’s superb series of books of photographs of Brits enjoying themselves through the ages. This one anatomises the British picnic, with pictures of people eating white bread sandwiches in fields and car parks from 1900 onwards.

In her introduction, Lucy Davies admits that her picnic de choix would be the one with Cecil Beaton and his elegant chums in the Wiltshire Downs in 1935, but as you look through the book, you may decide (as I did) that the ordinary families picnicking anywhere they can find (on a wall, on the beach, on a roadside verge, above) look rather more fun.

All ten previous volumes (which include Dog Show 1961-1978 and Butlin’s Holiday Camp 1982) are worth a look, but this is one of the best.

The Power Of Photography

by Peter Fetterman (ACC Art Books £30, 256pp) (ACC Art Books £30, 256pp)

Fetterman is a collector and dealer in photographs, mainly from the 20th century, and this is a peep into his extraordinary collection, with work by both acknowledged masters and people you have never heard of

Fetterman is a collector and dealer in photographs, mainly from the 20th century, and this is a peep into his extraordinary collection, with work by both acknowledged masters and people you have never heard of

Fetterman is a collector and dealer in photographs, mainly from the 20th century, and this is a peep into his extraordinary collection, with work by both acknowledged masters and people you have never heard of.

Each photograph is accompanied by a note from the photographer and an appreciative line or two from Fetterman himself, and the shots range across the whole gamut of the art, from the intimate to the epic.

I Love You 

by Mario Testino (Taschen £60, 248 pp)

Does anyone truly need a huge, weighty, picture-packed book about weddings? Maybe not, but what a magnificent artefact

Does anyone truly need a huge, weighty, picture-packed book about weddings? Maybe not, but what a magnificent artefact

Does anyone truly need a huge, weighty, picture-packed book about weddings? Maybe not, but what a magnificent artefact. Testino is an eminent fashion and portrait photographer from Peru, who may be the most expensive wedding photographer in the world.

Anyway, here are photographs from his family’s weddings, his friends’ weddings and not a few Royal weddings. Testino was even in the car with Kate Moss (pictured) on the way to her wedding. He says he loves photographing her.

‘She has the ability to make you feel that there is no one more amazing to be with and nowhere better and more beautiful to be than at her side.’

A wonderful present for a 2023 bride, as long as she has a budget for her wedding well in excess of £100,000…

The Queen and Windsor

by Gill Heppell (photographs) & Hugo Vickers (words) (Zuleika £50, 272 pp)

There have been quite a few books this year celebrating the Queen, but this is one of the most unusual

There have been quite a few books this year celebrating the Queen, but this is one of the most unusual

There have been quite a few books this year celebrating the Queen, but this is one of the most unusual. Heppell and Vickers were originally commissioned by the Windsor Platinum Jubilee Committee to produce a coffee table book in a limited edition of 70, number 1 of which went to the Queen herself. Now it’s being published more widely. Heppell’s photos are mainly recent and generally unguarded, featuring the beloved monarch in a number of natty hats and royal headscarves.

Windsor itself never looks less than cinematic, and Vickers’ words are as judicious as you might expect from someone who has written more royal books than you or I have had hot dinners.

If any book costing £50 could be said to be a ‘bargain’, this might be it.

Wild Light: A Printmaker’s Day & Night

by Angela Harding (Sphere £25, 192pp)

Angela Harding doesn’t sentimentalise these animals; she draws what she sees, which is what we would probably see, if we were looking

Angela Harding doesn’t sentimentalise these animals; she draws what she sees, which is what we would probably see, if we were looking

Angela Harding has been a printmaker and illustrator for more than 30 years. This book celebrates the various shades of light she sees in the morning, at noon, in the fading of day and at the dead of night.

Her prints and drawings of the nature she spots, mostly in her back garden in Rutland, but also in Norfolk and on the Cornish coast, are stylised and very beautiful: her birds, in particular, seem to fly even more fluidly than real birds, and her foxes slink more threateningly than even the slinkiest real fox.

Even in an illustration for a gardening magazine she managed to throw in an unusually beady-eyed bird intent on some nameless mischief.

She doesn’t sentimentalise these animals; she draws what she sees, which is what we would probably see, if we were looking. Marvellous.

Elvis And The Birth Of Rock And Roll

by Alfred Wertheimer (Taschen £50, 336pp)

Here are photos of Elvis at the very beginning of his career, when he was barely 21 and not used to being photographed thousands of times a day

Here are photos of Elvis at the very beginning of his career, when he was barely 21 and not used to being photographed thousands of times a day

Of course, if the Rolling Stones looked young in 1972, it’s as nothing compared with how young Elvis Presley looked in 1956.

Here are photos of the great man at the very beginning of his career, when he was barely 21 and not used to being photographed thousands of times a day.

Here he is leaning on his hands, drinking a glass of water and generally looking beautiful, which was his number two job after singing all those amazing songs.

You might manage to forget how beautiful Elvis was as a youth, until you open the pages of this book. Wertheimer followed him everywhere for a fortnight, and took more than 2,500 pics, never searching for what Cartier-Bresson called the ‘decisive moment’, but hoping that the sheer volume of portraits would do the job. They do, triumphantly.

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