Item description for English Parish Churches: Vol.1 (English Parish Churches, 1) by Phillip Lindley...
This unique archive is based on the collection of photographs taken by Dr. Donna Chaproniere and now housed at the History of Art Department of the University of Leicester. The photographs range from general views of the churches in the landscape, to exteriors and interiors, details of roofs, fonts, stained glass etc. This CD contains 1500 photographs from 300 churches in Suffolk and some adjoining areas of Essex, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire. They cover both medieval and post-medieval works. Accompanying each image is an explanatory caption written by a subject specialist. Introductory chapters provide information on the geological and economic significance of the area and a comprehensive bibliography, and there is a comprehensive glossary of architectural and art-historical terms. The collection can be accessed by tours based on geologically coherent groups of settlements, by the name of a settlement, by a map of the region or by context-based word-searching.
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Reviews - What do customers think about English Parish Churches: Vol.1 (English Parish Churches, 1)?
a great chance missed. Oct 7, 2003
This is the first CD-rom in a series from the History of Art department of the University of Leicester. It is based on the photographs of churches and notes about them taken by Donna Chaproniere.
Architectural books are usually organised by county, but here the themes are geological areas; Donna Chaproniere found it interesting to draw a connection between local building materials and architectural forms, and it was a condition of the gift that the CD-roms would be organised in this way. The notes for each photograph are by Phillip Lindley, and there is also a lengthy introduction by Donna Chaproniere.
Well, there are lots of interesting photos. You can spend an enjoyable time just cruising around the application. Also, despite the fact that the photos were the main motivation for the product, the commentary is actually very good, well-written and usually accurate, although not always. The glossary is very comprehensive.
However, the photos simply aren't big enough. Also, they are mostly black and white; this doesn't matter for some features, but it would be nice to have colour images of interiors. The images here of stained glass are so small and grey that they are pointless. Some of the photos are taken at an unusual angle, and when this is coupled with a poor light balance, it is almost impossible to make out any details - on the doom at Stoke by Clare, for example. This could, and should, have been corrected when they were scanned in. Also in need of correction is the fact that the brasses were taken at an angle across the pane, which is rather disconcerting.
The selection of churches and features appears rather haphazard. I'm not clear if this is simply because the project was never completed, or the features were selected for some ideosyncratic reason which isn't apparent to me. For example, the photographs for Thornham Parva include the wallpaintings, but not the famous retable. There is a fairly extensive feature on EB Lamb's minor church at Braiseworth, but his major work at Leiston has just a single photograph of some stencilling. This is at best an incomplete reference source; if the photos were merely intended to support the text this would be okay, but as the intention appears to be the reverse it diminishes the product.
Although, as I have said, the text is well-written and usually accurate, there are some embarrassing errors which really shouldn't have been allowed through. As an example, there's a bench end at Blythburgh in the Seven Works of Mercy sequence which illustrates 'burying the dead'; on this CD-rom, it is captioned 'man in a boat'. At Hessett, the window of St Mary Cleophas and her four children has become 'St Nicholas and three boys'.
The application was designed with Mac-users rather than PC-users in mind. Because of this, it is difficult to install unless you read the instructions very carefully. Also, some of the features don't work on a PC - the preview thumbnail frame for each church and feature, for example. Also, on the map you can click to see a close-up - but the close-up panes are blank. This may also be the reason why more than a few of the photos simply appear to be missing; I could access only one of the five for Barham, for instance.
More seriously, I found it impossible to print anything other than a small grey screen. Since it isn't possible to enlarge the panes, and the text size in the introduction is tiny on a high resolution screen, this will seriously hamper anybody with poor eyesight. The only way round this may be to reset your screen size to 800x600 - or, simply, to have an older machine, for which the application appears to be designed. I am told that it won't even run at all on the most up to date Mac operating system.
The search facility is very poor. The only satisfactory way to use the application is from the alphabetical list of placenames. Since you might reasonably expect users to have an interest in a particular feature or historical period, this is unfortunate. However, since virtually all these churches have images and information freely available on the Internet, you don't need to come to the product entirely ignorant, although this does nothing to increase the importance of the product, of course.
Finally, the product is horrendously, insanely, absurdly expensive. I guess this is because it is aimed at academic institutions rather than private individuals. As a UK taxpayer, I resent the way companies charge academic institutions through the nose; as the originators of this product are an academic institution themselves, they should know better. Virtually all the features in the photographs are available for nothing in other photographs elsewhere, usually in colour, as is the information in their commentaries, so the value of the product is as a historical collection. If the photos had been produced large format in a coffee-table book, they would have been better and cheaper.