The first book to look at the canals of Amsterdam came out in about 1770, the variegated rows of house fronts being depicted in prints. Others followed, and the latest in the line is The Canals of Amsterdam. Now the canalside frontages have been photographed in colour, the elms devoid of leaves and the skies smoothed out in post-processing. These colour images run across the tops of the pages through the entire book. They are relatively small, a good choice given that anyone can walk past the houses themselves.
The rest of the book shows us above all the riches hidden behind those narrow facades. As promised by the book’s subtitle, this is truly a glimpse of four hundred years of building, living and working. Here the choice has been for a lively miscellany of detail, of necessity not paralleling the totality of the canal fronts. This variety shows us every nook and cranny of history in a rich range of pictorial matter.
The grid with the text in two columns is nowhere rigid. The navigation system does its job inconspicuously, the captions are placed as best suits, the subheadings are journalistic.
‘What would be really surprising would be if a book like this didn’t look good’, opined the one panel member with reservations. The others agreed, but found that no reason to leave the book out of the selection. ‘A collosal job.’