It is the neon sign that blinks on the edge of our consciousness; the wavy, delicate windowpanes in a centuries-old farmhouse; the airy adornment of high-rise architects and playful distraction of daydreaming schoolchildren. Heat resistant or shatterproof, tempered or stained, this magical substance formed of sand and fire has done much more than ...Read MoreIt is the neon sign that blinks on the edge of our consciousness; the wavy, delicate windowpanes in a centuries-old farmhouse; the airy adornment of high-rise architects and playful distraction of daydreaming schoolchildren. Heat resistant or shatterproof, tempered or stained, this magical substance formed of sand and fire has done much more than brighten and beautify: it has changed the very way we live.William S. Ellis brilliantly whisks readers on a marvelously entertaining journey of ingenuity and discovery, from the birthplace of glass on the ancient shores of Phoenicia to the crystal factories of Waterford, which only recently has leapt into the computer age. In prose as crystalline as his subject, the author celebrates the versatility and functionality of glass, and explains how a substance known to all but understood by few has been shaped and molded to serve mankind in innumerable ways. In these pages, readers will learn how glass has both shaped and been shaped by man's changing relationship to the environment; how it has brought vision to the sight-deprived and to human beings huddling in the dark; and how glass enters the twenty-first century yielding an almost unlimited horizon of possibilities.With grace, charm and authority, Glass delves into history, invention, manufacturing, fine art, and the myriad faces and forms of this protean substance. Whether visiting the flamboyant glass artist Dale Chihuly, dissecting the creation of a twenty-ton telescopic mirror, sampling the history of Tiffany's magnificent lamps, or watching the design and construction of the greenhouses of Kew Gardens, this book treats readers to a multifaceted vision of a material eternally destined to die a violent death, and to be constantly reborn in a relentlessly changing world.Read Less
Publishers Weekly, 1998-10-12 A popularly written survey of glass, from the artifacts of ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt to modern lasers and telescopes, Ellis's first book offers a wondrous excursion into science, history, culture and invention. Through the prism of glassmaking, Ellis traces the imperial power of Rome; the spreading influence of Islam; Renaissance ferment refracted in the glassware of Venice, England and Bohemia; the founding of Jamestown, among whose first colonizers were half-a-dozen German glassblowers; and the scientific revolution. A former National Geographic editor and writer, Ellis draws on his global travels, from Babylonian ruins to Venetian factories to Corning research labs, for this dizzying, hugely entertaining and informative report. Filled with intriguing observations on milk bottles, thermometers, mirrors, paperweights, light bulbs (blown by hand until 1922) and the fish tank aboard the space shuttle Columbia, his investigation also examines weightier topics, such as fiber-optic communications systems and the disposal of radioactive materials through vitrification?turning waste into glass. His heady tour delves into future possibilities for glass and ideas on the drawing boards, including replacement body parts, nonflammable glass/plastic alloys and radioactive glass beads to kill diseased kidneys. A snappy overview of glass artistry extends from medieval stained-glass windows through London's Crystal Palace of 1851, corporate architecture, profiles of Seattle glass artists Dale Chihuly and William Morris, even an interview with virtuoso glass-harp player Jamey Turner. Ellis's amazing exploration of glass's resurgence in technology and art proves that glass, despite appearances, has muscle as well as soul. Includes eight pages of color illustrations, not seen by PW. Agent, Jane Dystel. (Nov.)
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