Review by Frank Andrews:
Lacking detailed knowledge of the Czech glass industry I cannot comment on the actual subject matter but the preface by, well qualified, Sylva Petrova makes it clear that in this respect the book will be held in high regard. This book has the potential to be considered for classic status, but does this hold up? So to the book review!
The first chapter, Historical Context, is invaluable as many in the West have some preconceptions of the climate in which this glass was produced. For collectors in the modern world understanding the influences on design and production helps to establish where the glass will fit into the world of collecting. Clearly some very difficult impositions, first the war and then the communist regime, yet still design broke new ground in the period covered by this book.
First impressions - The main criticisms of this book are also apparent after reading this first chapter. My greatest difficulty was with the minute type used for the captions and lacking a magnifying glass to hand, I will need to go back to these later. My only other issue is very minor and was with the Czech words used for which there is no guide to pronunciation - however many anglicised translations are given. Perhaps the author could add this to the website with sound files for each term. This is mostly an issue in the early part of the book.
The second chapter gives brief but detailed histories of the factories concerned, sufficient for the collector and a solid basis for further study. The third chapter is less condensed, covering the subject in a clear style with good structure. It relates glass design to philosophy and social conditions, establishing the important influences of the periods - particularly the 60s and 70s. It is interesting to read that the roots of this had been well established before the turmoil of World War 2 and about the isolation that led to the relative invisibility of Sklo Union glass on the global markets. This chapter is a tribute to the author's style of writing and his research ethos.
Next we are introduced to the main designers in good well written detail and lavishly illustrated. Each of the main designers is treated individually and this will no doubt lead to designer oriented collections of Sklo Union glass.
A chapter on techniques discusses vital knowledge for the collector to be able to appreciate the processes used and a solid ground for further study. But when we get to a brief but basic chapter on applied decoration, I was a little disappointed not to see more examples in what is a growing area of interest. But in the context of the whole book this is understandable and a ripe area for future studies. This is followed by a summary of some important exhibitions.
Finally "Notes for Collectors" gives some sound advice although it is perhaps a little opinionated and mildly contentious. A comprehensive bibliography and index bring us to the end and the computer disk with its database of well over 5,000 items!
Overall, layout makes for a comfortable read apart from the minute captions. Photography is excellent. The cover price is remarkably low for such a seminal study. This book will certainly have a huge impact in creating a market for this glass that is likely to parallel the success of Art Deco French pressed glass, such as Lalique, in previous decades - all the ingredients are in place: Celebrated design, readily recognisable, huge volume of production (and rarities) and a massive design base. Armed with this book, collectors and dealers will create a market with the assurance that the market will grow, especially once the relative rarity of designs and their variations becomes clearer. The book also offers tantalising hints of other areas of Czech and Slovakian glass that are still waiting to be explored.
Clearly, a classic of classics has been born.
The database is a useful resource for the collector but thumbnails are often truncated. Due to poor design of metadata the search functionality is disappointingly weak and for example it is not always possible to track down a piece with just a size. It contains a lot of catalogue images so browsing is possibly the easiest way to use it until you are familiar with the contents. But worst of all the software works only on Windows XP rendering the CD obsolete.