Anatomy of the CastleÂ by JohnÂ GibsonÂ is perhaps the best book describing Castles aimed at the general reader that I have ever read. Â The authorÂ managesÂ to make the somewhat technical and dry language of describing castles and their construction lovely and entertaining.
It is a coffeeÂ tableÂ sized book that is jam packed with beautiful color photos of castles from all overÂ EuropeÂ and the Middle East. Â There are 200Â pagesÂ with a glossary, index, andÂ bibliography. Â It is divided into 6 chronological chapters with a lengthy introduction that describes the development of the art of fortification up to the development of the first castles. Â He alsoÂ includesÂ a chapter describingÂ whatÂ living in a castle must have truly been like. Â The glossary is short but helpful as it includes all the technical terms that are easily misused.
John Gibson has produced work about castles and their construction that is both informative andÂ entertaining. Â He deftly covers theÂ castlesÂ invention and development over a period of about 1,000 years and ties the castle into both hat came before and what came after in the art of fortification. Â Along the way he dispels some myths about castles, such as that they were dark dank places or the opposite that they were full of light and warmth. Â HeÂ givesÂ the lie to bothÂ notionsÂ and establishes that the truth lay somewhere in between. Â He also points out that dungeons as described in popular literature did notÂ reallyÂ exist although there were some places in castles that were used as prisons including entire castle at times. Â What was good for keeping people out was also pretty good atÂ keepingÂ them in when used for that purpose.
Aside from the quality of the photos the thing about this book that I enjoyed the most was theÂ qualityÂ of the writing. Â I never got bored while reading this book and the illustrations are wellÂ placedÂ to illuminate the text. Â There areÂ severalÂ fold-outs of significant castles thatÂ illustrateÂ stages in castle development. Â This is a highly enjoyable read and IÂ highlyÂ recommendÂ it.