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Vermeer's Hat: The Seventeenth Century and the Dawn of the Global World Reprint Edition

87 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1596915992
ISBN-10: 1596915994
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"In a remarkable book Vermeer's magical paintings become windows that reveal how daily life - from Delft to Beijing - was transformed. 'Brook takes his readers on a journey that encompasses Chinese porcelain and beaver pelts, global temperatures and firearms, shipwrecked sailors, silver mines and Manila galleons. A book full of surprising pleasures.' - Jonathan Spence, author of The Search for Modern China 'A more entertaining guide to world history is difficult to imagine.' Ross King, author of Brunelleschi's Dome 'An absolutely wonderful idea, beautifully executed.' Tom Standage, author of A History of the World in Six Glasses" --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Timothy Brook completed this book while a John Simon G uggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellow. He holds the Shaw Chair in Chinese at Oxford U niversity and is the author of many books, including the award-winning Confusions of Pleasure.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Press; Reprint edition (December 23, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596915994
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596915992
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (87 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #63,337 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

75 of 78 people found the following review helpful By Harold S. Levine on January 18, 2008
Format: Hardcover
A fascinating, erudite but easy-to-read series of chapters on trade, exploration, cross-cultural influence and physical culture, using 17th century Delft as the starting point. but reaching around the globe to Asia and the Americas. I'm a huge Vermeer fan and I visited Delft last April, so the book had an added resonance to me. Although you don't need to be an art lover to appreciate the book, a familiarity with Vermeer makes the argument event more interesting. I visited the Frick Collection yesterday and saw the image on the cover for the 20th time and noticed things I'd never realized before. The book brings to mind Jonathan Spence's "The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci" and the Simon Schama's "The Embarassment of Riches," (both authors blurbed this book) although it's probably an easier read than either. If you like books like those and "Longitude," you'll love this. Not so much an art history book -- and not a replacement for the other books on Vermeer as an artist -- but a cultural historian's look at an important era in the opening up of the world.
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190 of 210 people found the following review helpful By A. Anderson on October 18, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The entire book revolves around the analysis of seven key paintings from Vermeer's time - NOT ONE OF THEM IS INCLUDED IN THE KINDLE EDITION!!!!!!!!!!!
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62 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Kenneth Woolworth on February 29, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Have you no common sense and sense of fairness? That in a book like this to not include the key plates and maps is ridiculous. At least the customer should be told in advance to make a better decision.
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40 of 48 people found the following review helpful By Robert Busko VINE VOICE on January 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Vermeer's Hat by Timothy Brook is a rich examination of the growth of commerce in the seventeeth century using, of all things, the art of Johannes Vermeer. Wonderful.

Before finding Vermeer's Hat I had never heard of the artist. So much for my general education in college. However, during the time I read Vermeer's Hat I managed to find a number of websites devoted to this not minor artist. The best is at [...] At this website you will find a chronological listing of his works along with terrific images. Vermeer's Hat, the cover image on the book is there and is cross listed with another image in which the same map appears.

Brook uses the art of Johannes Vermeer to demonstrate the growth in commerce during the 1600's by focusing on items that appear in the images. This reminds me a great deal of the PBS program Connections that was popular during the 70's and 80's. Also, the information in Vermeer's Hat reminds me of works by Fernand Braudel in his Civilization trilogy.

While each and every chapter has a great deal to convey, I found Chapter 5, "School for Smoking" to be of particular interest. Brook's examination of first the discovery by Europeans of tobacco and then the world wide spread of the plant and the resultant almost universal acceptance of smoking is truly eye opening. Children smoking in China or at least carrying pipes to look older is surprising. While some monarchs fruitlessly tried to ban smoking the populace continued on, even on the threat of beheading. Manchu soldiers selling their weapons to buy tobacca is a piece of trivia I'll carry for years to come. This chapter puts some of todays issues about smoking and substance abuse in perspective.

Well researched and wonderfully written, Vermeer's Hat will open many windows for the interested reader. I have enjoyed my introduction to Vermeer and am thankful for Timothy Brook for the favor.

I highly recommend Vermeer's Hat.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By J. Moran VINE VOICE on April 1, 2009
Format: Paperback
In 1660 or 1661 Vermeer painted "A View of Delft," his hometown in Holland. In that picture looms a massive roofline, sheltering the offices of the Dutch East India Company (known as the VOC), which was happily (and unconsciously) engaged in irrevocably changing the world. What the VOC's merchant members thought they were doing was trying to make a few (okay--a lot) of guilders from trading with China, Japan and every other East Asian country that would have them. To do so required endangering thousands of men and (eventually) hundreds of ships in vastly perilous voyages of exploration, trading, diplomacy, piracy and pillage, with conquest, enslavement and colonization thrown in as opportunity offered. The VOC's efforts (and those of competitors from elsewhere in Europe) created the first world-wide commercial trading channels, something utterly different from the trickle of trade in luxury items that had existed since ancient times.

Author Brook uses the VOC building and details from other Vermeer paintings as "portals" into the seventeenth century to describe VOC and its competitors beginning to bring disparate peoples into ever closer and inescapably permanent contact. The weighing of some silver, for example, opens the story of how silver flooded the world in the seventeenth century causing not only profound economic changes but equally deep changes in cultures and outlooks. For good or ill the seventeenth century began the commercialization and shrinking of the world that continues today and did so at the cost of much treasure, blood and personal and cultural displacement (although with much gain in some quarters as well). It is always so, as our own times confirm.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By David Montgomery on May 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Vermeer's Hat is a wonderfully creative book that delves into the broader picture of global trade in the seventeenth century through Johannes Vermeer's paintings. I had some introduction to Vermeer in art appreciation classes, but Brook effectively uses the objects seen in some of his well known paintings to enlighten us about the goings and comings in a world being transformed by trade. Even the effects of climate change figure into his painting of the city of Delft, as revealed by the fishing vessels seen. From the Turkish rugs, Chinese porcelain, and silver seen in some of Vermeer's work, we begin to see the evidence of the effects of global trade with other countries, most notably China, as the author gives great attention to.

Brook uses the city of Delft, Vermeer's residence, as a starting point for understanding global trade at that time. Through the paintings of that art master we see the signs of a world that stretched far beyond Vermeer's native soil. We learn of The Dutch East India Company's role in the local economy and the transporting of thousands of Holland's citizens to far off lands in their efforts to make a better living for themselves and to bring back goods that were in demand in their native land.

The stories of shipwreck survivors and victims, Jesuit missionaries in China, the tobacco craze, silver currency extracted from South America bound for China and or Europe, Chinese culture and customs and their own outlook on the rest of the world, all come into focus in this book. Some of the stories are horrific and brutal. The competition between European powers for the Asian market also figures into this story.

Brook is to be commended for offering a fairly unique way of looking at the bigger picture (no pun intended) through the window of Johannes Vermeer's paintings.
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Vermeer's Hat: The Seventeenth Century and the Dawn of the Global World
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