Summer Suitcase: Welsh setting for York prof’s new book

This is the third in a series of weekly “summer suitcase” stories, showcasing the international breadth of York’s Faculty of Fine Arts.

York art historian Malcolm Thurlby recently joined international literary luminaries Margaret Atwood, Salman Rushdie, Peter Carey and Zadie Smith at the legendary Guardian Hay Festival in Wales. It was at the festival that Thurlby launched his latest book, Romanesque Architecture and Sculpture in Wales (2006).

The 10-day literary festival is held annually in early summer in the tiny, historic, book-loving town of Hay-on-Wye. (Located on the border of Wales and England in Brecon Beacons National Park, the community has a population of 1,500 and boasts 41 bookshops.) This year’s festival took place May 26 to June 4. Thurlby launched his book on June 1 with a dynamic presentation of photographs and examples of architecture taken from his book. 

Dubbed “Woodstock for the mind” by former US president Bill Clinton, the festival celebrates great writing in Britain and worldwide. Attracting tens of thousands of people, the event indulges visitors’ tastes for the finest books as well as for moderated conversations and question-and-answer sessions with authors, food, drink, comedy, music and art.

Right: Malcolm Thurlby in Wales

Littered with references to history, religion, symbolism and the works of master artists, Romanesque Architecture and Sculpture in Wales is the first comprehensive study on the topic and offers much more than individual examples of architectural style. Thurlby’s engaging prose and illustrations draw out the wider story, including the people behind the works — both patrons and carvers. He also compares the surviving work with that of other architectural styles in Britain and abroad.

Left and below: Images from Malcolm Thurlby’s presentation given at the Garden Hay Festival in Wales

Romanesque Architecture and Sculpture in Wales follows on the heels of Thurlby’s bestseller The Herefordshire School of Romanesque Sculpture, now in its fifth printing (see the Sept. 27, 2004 issue of YFile). His latest book promises to be equally engaging for the general reader and specialist alike.

Thurlby is an internationally renowned specialist in medieval art and architecture and Canadian architectural history. A Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London, he has published more than 100 articles on aspects of Romanesque and Gothic architecture and sculpture in Britain and 19th-century architecture in Canada. Much in demand as a speaker, Thurlby has presented over 160 papers at conferences and universities in Canada, the United States, England, Scotland, Ireland, France and Italy.

Visit the Guardian Hay Festival Web site for more information on the event and the book launch.

This article was submitted to YFile by Mary-Lou Schagena in the Faculty of Fine Arts.