What We Are Reading Today: The Grammar of Ornament by Owen Jones

Updated 12 February 2019

What We Are Reading Today: The Grammar of Ornament by Owen Jones

  • The Grammar of Ornament celebrates objects of beauty from across time periods and continents

First published in 1856, The Grammar of Ornament remains a design classic. Its inspiration came from pioneering British architect and designer Owen Jones (1809–1874), who produced a comprehensive design treatise for the machine age, lavishly illustrated in vivid chromolithographic color. Jones made detailed observations of decorative arts on his travels in Europe, the Middle East, and in his native London, where he studied objects on display at the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations in 1851 and at local museums. His aim was to improve the quality of Western design by changing the habits of Victorian designers, who indiscriminately mixed elements from a wide variety of sources.

Jones’s resulting study is a comprehensive analysis of styles of ornamental design, presenting key examples ranging from Maori tattoos, Egyptian columns, and Greek borders to Byzantine mosaic, Indian embroidery, and Elizabethan carvings. The Grammar of Ornament celebrates objects of beauty from across time periods and continents. and remains an indispensable sourcebook today.

Owen Jones (1809–74) was an English-born Welsh architect and one of the most important design theorists of the 19th century. He taught applied arts at the South Kensington School of Design in the 1850s and served as Superintendent of Works at the Great Exhibition of 1851.


What We Are Reading Today: How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

Updated 23 August 2019

What We Are Reading Today: How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

In this book, Ibram X. Kendi weaves together an electrifying combination of ethics, history, law, and science, bringing it all together with an engaging personal narrative of his own awakening to antiracism.

How to Be an Antiracist is an “essential work for anyone who wants to go beyond an awareness of racism to the next step: Contributing to the formation of a truly just and equitable society,” said a review in goodreads.com.

Critic Jeffrey C. Stewart said in a review for The New York Times that Kendi is on a mission to push those of us who believe we are not racists to become something else: Antiracists, who support ideas and policies affirming that “the racial groups are equals in all their apparent differences — that there is nothing right or wrong with any racial group.” 

Steward said: “For Kendi, the founding director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University, there are no nonracists; there are only racists — people who allow racist ideas to proliferate without opposition — and antiracists, those who expose and eradicate such ideas wherever they encounter them.”