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

Updated 12 February 2019
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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: Red Meat Republic by Joshua Specht

Updated 52 sec ago
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What We Are Reading Today: Red Meat Republic by Joshua Specht

  • Joshua Specht puts people at the heart of his story — the big cattle ranchers who helped to drive the nation’s westward expansion

By the late 19th century, Americans rich and poor had come to expect high-quality fresh beef with almost every meal. 

Beef production in the US had gone from small-scale, localized operations to a highly centralized industry spanning the country, with cattle bred on ranches in the rural West, slaughtered in Chicago, and consumed in the nation’s rapidly growing cities. 

Red Meat Republic tells the remarkable story of the violent conflict over who would reap the benefits of this new industry and who would bear its heavy costs, says a review on the University Press website.

Joshua Specht puts people at the heart of his story — the big cattle ranchers who helped to drive the nation’s westward expansion, the meatpackers who created a radically new kind of industrialized slaughterhouse, and the stockyard workers who were subjected to the shocking and unsanitary conditions described by Upton Sinclair in his novel The Jungle. 

Specht brings to life a turbulent era marked by Indian wars, Chicago labor unrest, and food riots in the streets of New York.