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Pouring Out the History
The Decanter: An Illustrated History of Glass from 1650

By Andy McConnell
(Antique Collectors Club, $90)

Reviewed by James Riswick

Up until the mid-20th century, serving wine directly from its bottle was considered quite the social faux pas. In fact, one British military commander placed an officer on a disciplinary charge in 1840 for pouring wine from the bottle rather than a decanter. Although that crusty ol’ chap was probably a little loony, it demonstrates the importance decanters used to have in the world of wine and liquor. The Decanter: An Illustrated History of Glass from 1650 serves as a comprehensive guide to the evolution of this once omnipresent vessel and how it shaped modern glass making. Set up as a reference resource for antique collectors or those simply interested in the history of glass, this mammoth 575-page guide is filled with colorful high-quality photographs of various decanters and other pieces of glass art. If there was a college course on the subject, The Decanter would probably be the required reading, as it is immensely thorough and detailed in its information—usually describing specific examples. This is understandable considering author Andy McConnell spent more than seven years to compile the book’s information (he originally planned on taking only six months). A former rock music journalist and TV production manager, McConnell grew interested in the topic when he was dealing in antiques and began focusing specifically on glass. Today, he is considered one of the world’s primary experts on the subject. Even if you’re not particularly fascinated by the history of decanters, the often striking pictures are enough to keep your attention. These colorfully ornate wine and spirit holders are reminders of a classier time, and certainly seem to serve as inspiration for today’s increasingly elaborate and decorative bottles.

P091106 (Updated: 09/14/06)

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