Vanished Towers and Chimes of Flanders.
Philadelphia, The Penn Publishing Company, 1916. 21.5 cm x 27.5 cm. Frontispiece, 212 pages. 29 additional illustrated plates with tissue guards. Hardcover – publisher’s original green cloth with gilt lettering and bands on spine. Lavishly gilded vignette and designs with gilt titling on front baord. Illustrated titlepage. Top edge gilt. Damp staining to board top corners and upper spine. Staining evident to upper corner of front pastedown and endpapers and more faintly throughout the volume. Minor foxing to titlepage. Very minor foxing to some pages, otherwise interior bright and clean. Binding good and strong with nice, tight square bookblock. Otherwise in very good condition with only minor signs of external wear. Light rubbing to board corners, edges and spine edges. Some dulling to spine titling.
Includes, for example, the following: Malines, and Some of the Vanished Towers / Some Carillons of Flanders / Dixmude / Ypres / Commines / Bergues / Nieuport / Louvain / Douai / Oudenaarde / The Artits of Malines / A Word About the Belgians etc.
From the foreword: “The Unhappy Flemish people, who are at present much in the lime-light, because of the invasion and destruction of their once smiling and happy little country, were of a character but little known or understood by the great outside world. The very names of their cities and towns sounded strangely in foreign ears. Towns named Ypres, Courtrai, Alost, Furnes, Tournai, were in the beginning of the invasion unpronounceable by most people, but little by little they have become familiar through newspaper reports of the barbarities said to have been practiced upon the people by the invaders. Books giving the characteristics of these heroic people are eagerly sought. Unhappily these are few, and it would seem that these very inadequate and random notes of mine upon some phases of the lives of these people, particularly related to architecture, and the music of their renowned chimes of bells, might be useful.”
The beautifully produced volume is a good example of the anti-German literature that helped shape American attitudes to the belligerents prior to US entry into the Great War. The German invasion and heavy-handed occupation of Belgium and cruel treatment of civilians was portrayed as the “Rape of Belgium,” and the Germans were depicted as an atavistic threat to Western Civilization. Edward’s volume focuses on the wanton architectural atrocities perpetrated by the Germans rather than the more lurid sexual stories that poured out of other propaganda outlets. The author lovingly describes picturesque towns and paints pen-pictures and beautiful illustrations of their architectural gems only to tell the reader that what he has described is now destroyed. For example after describing Commines and focusing on the symbolism and importance of the cathedral belfry in Flemish architecture since the Middle Ages, he ends the chapter complaining, “[s]ince this was written, in 1914, many, if not most, of these great buildings thus enumerated above, are now in ruins, utterly destroyed for all times!” Referring to the iconic Cloth Hall of Ypres the author writes that “this exquisite work of art” was destroyed by “the great guns of the iconoclastic invader” for no reason: it was “wanton and unnecessary. It produced no result whatever of advantage.” (p.72-73) The Flemish towns and villages Edwards wrote about were all then under German occupation.
George Wharton Edwards (March 1859 – January 18, 1950) was an American impressionist painter and illustrator, and the author of several books of travel and historical subjects. (Wikipedia)