CATEGORY   Decorative Arts, Architecture, Design

Hardcover, 320 pages, 266 x 186 mm, 1150 black-and-white illustrations, 1986
UK Macmillan ISBN 978-0-333-40564-2
USA Pantheon, New York ISBN 978-0-394-50931-5

Republished in 1990 by Cameron & Hollis ISBN 978-0-906-506-02-8

Distributed by Roundhouse in the UK and Europe

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Philippa Lewis & Gillian Darley

The Dictionary of Ornament describes in a single volume the entire range of decorative styles and motifs used by designers, architects craftsmen from the Middle Ages to the present. Copiously illustrated and thoroughly cross-referenced, it provides comprehensive coverage of both architecture and the applied arts, including furniture, silver, jewellery, metalwork, ceramics and textiles. Special attention is devoted to the contents and compilers of pattern books – publications which, from the fifteenth to the nineteenth century transmitted the influence of major events and discoveries to European and American designers (as well as the general public) in the form of new fashions and patterns for fabrics and furnishings.

This encyclopedic reference work contains 1020 alphabetical entries and about 1150 illustrations (photographs, engravings, and line drawings) with detailed captions, many of them grouped to show how a single motif or form has been treated in different media. Among the many subjects covered are:

  • definitions of ornaments, motifs and patterns, e.g. the ball-and-claw furniture leg, the cornucopia, the repeating egg-and-dart pattern
  • themes of decoration, such as death and mourning, or the commemoration of great events
  • origins and historical associations of different motifs, e.g. the tulip in the Netherlands, the eagle in America, the Scottish thistle
  • specific uses of certain kinds of ornament: what was and is favoured by the designers of Turkish baths, theatres or government buildings
  • techniques of ornamentation, such as rustication and ormolu
  • publications, such as pattern books, which invented and propagated new styles and motifs

The Dictionary also features a visual key that identifies selected patterns at a glance, helpful to anyone who has ever seen an unfamiliar bit of moulding or other ornamentation and wondered about its name and origin.

The product of over six years’ research, during which the authors sought out and photographed decorative features and details in Britain, Europe and North America, the Dictionary of Ornament is a truly comprehensive work of reference, essential for art students and historians, architects, designers, antique dealers and collectors – indeed for all who are interested in the vast subject of decoration.