A title from The Old School Press 

The Bricks of Venice

An important new text on Venetian architecture written and illustrated with watercolours by Peter Harris

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About the book

Out of print

Our first book, Venice Approached, was an excerpt from John Ruskin's The Stones of Venice, in particular the passage where he describes arriving in Venice from Padua, taking a gondola from the Brenta. This new title is, in its author's words, 'no parody of Ruskin's masterpiece, but offered in homage.'

Peter Harris lived and worked in Venice for seven years, with enough leisure to study in depth the architecture of Venice and to read extensively about the city. The Bricks of Venice was years in writing and in research, and is a memorial to his great love of the city.

You can read a chapter from the book, pretty much in the format that it appears in the book, by clicking on the thumbnail below.

Harris achieves a pleasing balance between contemporary observation and historical context, and sixty-six delightful watercolours and six other images fill out the story perfectly - you can view two of the watercolours by clicking on the thumbnail below (but please note that faithful colour reproduction on displays depends on too many factors outside my control!). He wrote the following about his book:

Scattered among the hidden corners of Venice, in private houses, on bell towers and under the eaves of churches, is a group of brick and tile designs dating back to the eleventh to fifteenth centuries. It needs the single-mindedness of a ferret to find many of them, hidden in the gloom of a narrow calle or secret courtyard. Ruskin knew and admired them; but even that indefatigable researcher did not find them all, and the breathtaking vision of The Stones of Venice is, naturally for the most part focused on Gothic stonework. It is surprising that here, in the most researched city in the world, such a treasury of medieval architecture could have been so ignored. The present book is the first to draw attention to the diversity and charm of this neglected side of Venice.

I have tried to keep my writing hand free from the cobwebs and dry brick dust that the title might lead one to expect, enlivening the text with many vignettes of personalities and life in medieval Venice. In addition, these little brick relics are part of the changing face of a living city that expresses its underlying economic and religious forces. To this end, many chapters are centred around mini-essays: brick making, the bricklayers, pavements, bell towers; but also the social hierarchy, a fashion in women's footwear, the mendicant friars, defence architecture, air pollution.

Publication may be timely. Apart from their intrinsic artistic and architectural interest, these unconsidered fragments are at danger from neglect, insensitive repair, even vandalism. Windows in the Campiello S Rocco that Ruskin described as 'amongst the most ancient efforts of Gothic art in Venice' have completely disappeared. Awareness of their value may help draw the attention of the charitable organisations such as Venice in Peril to the possibility of preserving a unique heritage at a relatively low cost.

Illustrations and text bear equal responsibilities, the two having been conceived together and fused from the beginning, text drawing the eye to relevant details and providing a background. The illustrations are designed both for accuracy and for aesthetic presentation. I have used a limited palette of earth colours to give cohesion and reinforce the sense of a work designed as a whole. Those water colours also bring out the character of brick better than photos can.

The title page


About the edition

The 96pp of text were printed in 14/16pt Bembo on a large page of Magnani mould-made paper. These pages were then bound into a volume with a hand-blocked paper on the boards - the paper was prepared especially for the edition by Alberto Valese in Venice, using a pattern taken from the facade of Ca' d'Oro, one of the finest Gothic palaces on the Grand Canal, and just along from the building in which Peter Harris and his wife lived. Each illustration was printed on a separate sheet of 225gsm Somerset paper made of 100% cotton , making it easier to follow the illustrations when they are called for in the text and also to frame and display them individually. To print the images I used an Epson 2100 printer using pigment-based inks thereby assuring good longevity of the images.

The seventy-two sheets of images are separated by chapter with sheets of brown Fabriano Ingres on which captions are printed to accompany the images. These sheets are collected in a solander box which is covered in another paper from Alberto Valese - a repeated tile pattern in grey. The solander box and bound volume are presented in a slip case in a pale yellow cloth with a spine label. Click on the button above to see a number of views of the book and its parts. (33cm high, 23.5cm wide, 8.5cm deep - 13in high, 9.25in wide, 3.25in deep.) 220.

WINNER of a Judges' Choice Award at the 2005 Oxford Fine Press Book Fair

Find out more about the book

View the book from different aspects:

View two of the watercolours from the book:

View a designer binding of the book:

Read an excerpt from the book:

Read the story of its making:

What others have said about the book

'a beautiful production' ... 'spectacular' ... 'a truly fabulous production' ... 'splendid' ... 'magnificent'

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via the homepage of our catalogue website
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Copyright Martyn Ould 2023