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The Mirror: A History (1994)

by Sabine Melchoir-Bonnet

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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892245,393 (3.29)1
This engaging and witty cultural history traces the evolution of the mirror from antiquity to the present day, illustrating its journey from wondrous object to ordinary trinket. With its earliest invention, the mirror allowed us to gaze upon ourselves, bestowing a power both fascinating and terrifying.… (more)
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I love a good history book that explains the origins of something mundane and common-place. Kurlansky's Salt is a perfect example. This book is about mirrors, which is another great topic. And sure enough, the book starts well by describing the history of mirror-making. It's an interesting story, if a bit French-centric, and features suspense and the makings of an agent novel when France and Venice competed against each other.

However, from there on the book gets downright boring. The author forgets the concrete objects and focuses on literature, sociology, philosophy and metaphysics. Perhaps the rest of the book works for a reader who is interested in the effects of mirrors in the psyche of a French nobleman in the 17th century, but that's not me. I would love to hear more about making mirrors, really.

There's no doubt that the author is French, so extensive is her use of French sources and her focus on French life. The book could be titled The Mirror - A French History. I did read through the whole book, but skipped along rather briskly in the end. Only occasionally I found something worth a deeper look.

So, I'm recommending this book with some reservations. The first part is interesting and definitely worth reading, but if the beginning of the second part doesn't please you, read no further: it doesn't get any better. (Review based on the Finnish translation.)

(THe Mirror reviewed at Mikko Reads) ( )
  msaari | May 30, 2008 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sabine Melchoir-Bonnetprimary authorall editionscalculated
Koskinen-Launonen, PiaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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This engaging and witty cultural history traces the evolution of the mirror from antiquity to the present day, illustrating its journey from wondrous object to ordinary trinket. With its earliest invention, the mirror allowed us to gaze upon ourselves, bestowing a power both fascinating and terrifying.

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