Monday, August 10, 2009

And the Flood Keeps Coming...

I've found a few more new (or nearly new) books on costume on Amazon. All of these are about Roman-period costume. They all look interesting.

1. Olson, Kelly. Dress and the Roman Woman: Self-Presentation and Society (Paperback), Routledge; 1st edition (June 16, 2008). ISBN-10: 0415414768

At $32.33 ($26.64 on Amazon Marketplace), this tiny (14 pages!) tome is very expensive, but the product description suggests it might be worth the price:

In ancient Rome, the subtlest details in dress distinguished between levels of hierarchy. Clothes were a key part of the sign systems of Roman civilisation – a central aspect of its visual language, for women as well as men.

This engaging book collects and examines literary references and artistic evidence to female clothing, cosmetics and ornament in Roman antiquity to decipher their meaning and reveal what it meant to be an adorned woman in Roman society.

Cosmetics, ornament and fashion were often considered frivolous, wasteful or deceptive, which reflects ancient views about women; but, Kelly Olson argues, women often enjoyed fashioning themselves and many treated adornment as a significant activity, enjoying the social status, influence and power that it signified.

This study makes a significant contribution our knowledge of Roman women, and will be essential reading for anyone interested in ancient Roman life.

2. Sumner, Graham. Roman Military Dress. The History Press (July 1, 2009). ISBN-10: 0752445766

Sumner has written some very good explanations of Roman military dress for Osprey Publishing's Men at Arms series. This volume purports to cover "the development of the Roman soldier’s uniform from the Late Republic to the advent of the Byzantine Empire." If he provides the same level of thoughtfulness but more detail than the Osprey books he's written that address these periods, the book will be well worth the money.

3. Edmundson, Jonathan & Keith, Alison (eds.) Roman Dress and the Fabrics of Roman Culture (Phoenix Supplementary Volumes) (Hardcover). University of Toronto Press; illustrated edition edition (May 7, 2008). ISBN-10: 0802093191.

This volume is a collection of monographs on "the social symbolism and cultural poetics of dress in the ancient Roman world in the period from 200 BCE-400 CE." I sometimes find this type of scholarly essay frustrating, but it can be enlightening if done well with attention to the details of costume itself, and at least some of the essays in this 440-page volume should be worth reading.

4. Gleba, Margarita. Textile Production in Pre-Roman Italy (Ancient Textile Series) (Hardcover) Oxbow Books in Association with the Centre for Textile Research (November 28, 2008).ISBN-10: 1842173308.

According to the product description on Amazon:

"...Margarita Gleba begins with an overview of the prehistoric Appennine peninsula, which featured cultures such as the Villanovans and the Etruscans, and was connected through colonisation and trade with the other parts of the Mediterranean. She then focuses on the textiles themselves: their appearance in written and iconographic sources, the fibres and dyes employed, how they were produced and what they were used for: we learn, for instance, of the linen used in sails and rigging on Etruscan ships, and of the complex looms needed to produce twill. Featuring a comprehensive analysis of textiles remains and textile tools from the period, the book recovers information about funerary ritual, the sexual differentiation of labour (the spinners and weavers were usually women) and the important role the exchange of luxury textiles played in the emergence of an elite."

This one is expensive (the cheapest copies on Amazon Marketplace are nearly $60 USD) but sounds as though it contains a wealth of information on a hard-to-research era of textile history.

In addition, I see that an old classic, Lillian Wilson's The Roman Toga has been republished and is available in a paperback edition for less than $20 USD. I have wanted to read that book for years; clearly, now is my chance.

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