Another Big Picture Book Review

One good reason I appreciate public libraries is the fact that they have plenty of room to store books. I’m particularly glad that there is not only room to store them, but large books are readily accessible. The latest 1000Objects-coverlarge format book discovery is Smithsonian History of the World in 1,000 Objects by DK Publishing.

This volume is much larger than the big picture book I reviewed a couple of weeks ago by the same publisher. That is, it’s larger in both size and scope. It’s quite an effort to condense the entire field of World History down to 400 pages. If you are tasked with narrowing that history down with images, the job might be even more difficult. To do this properly, you need a desk or table size book.

To define the terminology more clearly, world history refers to the history of humankind, not Earth history which is about our planet, its geology, and prehuman biology. World history is based upon written and archaeological evidence. The efforts of historians, anthropologists, and archaeologists include investigations into the earliest possible signs of human activity. In the case of Smithsonian History of the World in 1,000 Objects the evidence is found from as early as 22,000 years ago.

As I expected, the visual journey begins with a few photographs of flint tools, arrowheads, and axes. There are a few examples of early hunting and agricultural tools are from various areas around the world. With a turn of the page, the reader finds objects of art from the Paleolithic era. Animal and human artistic forms are represented, along with tools for food preparation.1000Objects-KoujindaniRemains

The study of civilizations begins in earnest on page 16, with an outline of the earliest civilizations on the Indian subcontinent. Already, we note the appearance of belief systems with figures and carvings of religious importance.  Three dimensional sculptures of animals and humans are shown.  The chapter continues with examples from the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East. The fascinating Mesopotamian and Sumerian civilizations are represented with more sophisticated tools, sculptures, and pictographic “writing”. Some of the first examples of gold crafting are presented, too. The chapter continues with a large section of ancient Egyptian artifacts.

Europe enters the scene with the arrival of the Bronze Age.  Weapons and ritual objects dominate the examples shown. The Hittites come into play with more elaborate objects and the Aegean societies of ancient Greece show up with beautiful examples of pottery and other fine arts. There is a too short mention of the Phoenicians. The first glimmerings of Chinese Empire building are represented by pottery and military 1000Objects-terracottaartifacts. The chapter concludes with Meso America, specifically the cultures of the Andes people and the development of Olmec civilization.

The other chapters follow in sequence. Ancient civilizations are defined as existing from 700 BCE to 600 CE. The major traders and empires builders are shown from 600 to 1450. The book’s entries on the Enlightenment and Imperialism run up to 1750. The industrial age is represented with items from 1750 to 1900. The current era begins in the year 1900. It is represented by examples of transportation, to modern warfare, to the Internet. Smithsonian History of the World in 1,000 Objects ends with half-a-dozen well formulated timelines of history.

The physical faults of this tome are few and minor in nature. The main complaint I have, is with the largest illustrations being rotated 90-degrees out of kilter with the book’s format.  To enjoy those images, I had to crane my neck or turn the book around. Again, this is a minor annoyance. I understand why the publishers printed the photos this way.

Overall, Smithsonian History of the World in 1,000 Objects is a beautifully finished book. The choices of objects photographed and selected for inclusion were well thought out.  I imagine the culling process must have been difficult for the editors. There are so many interesting things to include within a book that will appeal to a wide audience with various interests and curiosities. If you love history and
archaeology, the book is worth owning. You’ll spend many hours contemplating and studying the photographs.

{ Smithsonian History of the World in 1,000 Objects; published in 2014 by DK; 400 pages; ISBN: 978-1-4654-2289-7 }

mini-moiThe Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Simon Van Booy. “The beauty of artifacts is in how they reassure us we’re not the first to die.”

About swabby429

An eclectic guy who likes to observe the world around him and comment about those observations.
This entry was posted in art, Books, Gadgets, History, Vintage Collectables and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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