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The Secular Furniture of E. W. Godwin, by Susan Weber Soros; pp. 300. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000, $90.00.
E. W. Godwin: Aesthetic Movement Architect and Designer, edited by Susan Weber Soros; pp. 432. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000, $75.00.
In his tragically brief life, Edward William Godwin (1833-86), architect, designer, critic, and writer, established himself as a dominant figure in English architecture and design. His influence was felt throughout Britain, in America and on the Continent, and as far as India and Australia. His impressive output included designs for buildings, furniture, interiors, dress, and theatre. His passionate views on architecture and design enlivened the professional journals of the day. And his work, in a range of styles, skillfully combined the historically accurate and the pioneeringly modern. His progressive views, which included the championing of modular furniture, mass production, and the production of good design at affordable rates, continue to be relevant today. Charismatic, unconventional, opinionated, selfish, and constantly enquiring, he had an energetic and probably self-destructive capacity for hard work. One of his many obituaries claimed he was "an architect who had no compeer in England and a designe r of consummate skill" (British Architect 15 October 1886: 347-48).
Yet Godwin has not received the scholarly attention his achievements merit, with the exceptions of Dudley Harbron's enthusiastic, but uncritical and poorly annotated, biography of 1949, and Elizabeth Aslin's pioneering work on the furniture. This despite the existence of rich primary source material in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Royal Institute of British Architects collection (RIBA). These two new publications therefore …