City of incomparable beauty, shimmering in the reflected light from a thousand waterways, Venice has been a magnet to artists for many centuries. Unique among them, however, is John Ruskin, for he not only painted wonderful, atmospheric watercolours of the city, but dedicated himself to the study of Venice's architectural styles with awe-inspiring passion and thoroughness. Ruskin was one of the great prose stylists of his age - the greatest, thought Proust, who learned English expressly so as to translate Ruskin's works - and he describes the buildings with vivid clarity and rhetorical eloquence.
Ruskin had a lifelong obsession with Venice. Fearing for the survival of its glorious palaces, churches and civic buildings in the wake of the Napoleonic Wars, he embarked on this immense project, publishing his original work in three volumes between 1851 and 1853. For Ruskin the city's Gothic architecture - 'rude and wild, tinged with humour, joyful, spontaneous' - was the pinnacle of human achievement. The Stones of Venice celebrates this achievement with wit, erudition and unquenchable fervour. The text has been selected for this edition by Jan Morris, one of the foremost living authorities on Venice.
Review by Enodia on 9th Feb 2013