Monday, November 24, 2008

Places of Wonder and Discovery

Places of Wonder and Discovery is a “coffee table book” that provides magisterial images of World Heritage sites. My wife describes it as "National Geographic on steroids", as the book combines great photography with a broad geographic educational content. Ten photographers made the images. David Muench, my favorite living American nature photographer, made those of Yellowstone and Mesa Verde, as well as those of Uluru in Australia.

The World Heritage list currently includes 878 sites of cultural and/or natural importance. Each has been nominated by the government of the country in which it is situated, provided with a detailed management and conservation plan by that country, and subjected to extensive review before being authorized for inclusion on the list by the oversight committee of UNESCO’s World Heritage Center. They represent a heritage for all mankind.

This is the first book published by Our Place, a New Zealand firm, and is the first in a series of ten books it is to produce in collaboration with the UNESCO World Heritage Center. The book includes 350 original photographs of 50 World Heritage sites in 35 countries.

Many of the sites included in the book were familiar to me and will be to almost all readers: the Acropolis, the Taj Mahal, the Egyptian pyramids, Petra, the Lagoon of Venice, and Yellowstone National Park are all included.

Other sites were previously unknown to me. The stone circles of Senegal and the Gambia include some 29,000 stone monoliths of ancient origin. Tongariro in New Zealand is truly a place of wondrous natural beauty.

The book is thoughtfully designed. A few pages are devoted to each site, combining text and images. The photos are varied in style and content, providing not only large scenic views of the sites but smaller images that stirred the artists interests and provide variety for the reader.

If I were to have a quibble with the book, it is that it lacks a list of image titles indexed by page number, making it hard to identify the large images that are found at the start and end of the book.

For the many fans of UNESCO’s World Heritage program, the book will be a great find. I recommend that libraries consider it and the remaining books of the series as they are published for their collections; certainly this first book in the series has both artistic and reference value. Indeed, I suspect that many people will want a copy of the book for their personal collection, and it may indeed influence their travel plans for years to come.

Tongariro National Park, Chris Morton

Places of Wonder and Discovery

320 pages
Publisher: Our Place Publishing (October 22, 2008)
ISBN-10: 186953669X
ISBN-13: 978-1869536695 lists the book as available new from two U.S. companies for about $70 including shipping and handling.

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