Encyclopedia of the Exquisite: An Anecdotal History of Elegant Delights Hardcover – Deckle Edge, Nov 2 2010
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"A delightful ode to everyday elegance that brims with tales showing how beauty can be found in the most unlikely places. Encyclopedia of the Exquisite has the potential to make our lives that much more interesting. It left me truly inspired."
—Sarah Jessica Parker
"A beautifully researched and written book. Every story — whether on the origins of badminton or the art of Renaissance sotleties — is fascinating and inspiring. I kept turning the page, wanting to learn more."
"A wonderful mélange of chic and amusing tidbits — this book makes me smile."
“Jenkins’s wittily curated selection emphasizes the rare and not often considered, with a dash of Julie Andrews’s ‘favorite things’ sensibility. . . . There are enough fancies in Encyclopedia of the Exquisite to fill a castle of your own. It is a worthy trove.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“A select showcase of the unusual, the piquant and the frankly bizarre, enthusiastically researched and displayed with élan. . . . There is plenty to enlighten even the most world-weary terrestrial, not least in the form of new angles on some of our most comfortable clichés.”
—The Wall Street Journal
“Certainly one of the more unusual books you'll come upon this season, the Encyclopedia of the Exquisite is an attractive compendium of literary sketches on unusual topics that appeal to one's sense of fancy. Random, unexpected, charming—the alphabetized entries in this ‘History’ are the perfect addition to any lady's bedside table this winter.”
—The Free Lance-Star
“I admit that it was the design of this book that first led me to pick it up; I was drawn to its unconventional, squarish trim size and glittering, red-etched cover. But, once it was in my hands, this odd, precious little object had me totally absorbed. . . . Jenkins has channeled her obsession into an idiosyncratic catalogue of the good things in life: hot-air ballooning, Champagne, top hats. Each item is explicated in a vignette just a few pages long, shaded with lovely observations.”
—The New Republic
“Encyclopedia of the Exquisite lives up to its unique premise . . . interesting and entertaining. [Jenkins takes] the reader on a fanciful tour. . . . Her goal is to assemble a collection that describes beauty of all kinds, interesting, affordable and, as collections of miscellany often are, eccentric. In this she succeeds, and Encyclopedia of the Exquisite is both attractive and addictive. It is certainly catnip for the trivia-besotted, but it also is a work that can easily be read in short bursts, and reread as the whim dictates. With its accompanying rich bibliography, it also provides an excellent starting point for the further pursuit of any of its myriad topics.”
—The Denver Post
"A stylish little index of the facts you never knew you absolutely needed to know about one hundred of the most wonderful things in life—from frilly lingerie and champagne to dining al fresco to trapezes."
"This gilded, graceful book is nothing less than a miniature encyclopedia of style, exploring everything from the origins of badminton to the art of origami to Louis XIV's love of the Bartlett pear."
"A gallimaufry of curious and unusual entries, it's full of charm and erudition."
About the Author
JESSICA KERWIN JENKINS was formerly the European editor of W and a senior editor at Women’s Wear Daily. She currently writes for Vogue. She lives in Maine.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Most of us just enjoy seeing and indulging in things that appeal to us. Jessica Kerwin Jenkins has more curiosity than that. She memorializes the experiences and in this book has shared with us a little light learning about her fascinations.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Most of us just enjoy seeing and indulging in things that appeal to us. Jessica Kerwin Jenkins has more curiosity than that. She memorializes the experiences and in this book has shared with us a little light learning about her fascinations.
Since there is no listing of subjects or index, I have listed the topics: Hot-air balloons, alfresco (outdoor) experiences, amorini and putti (cupids, cherubs, and baby angels), attitudes (striking a pose), black in women's fashions, blancmange (a pudding), bobbed hair, Bon Chretien pears, boudoir, carousel, champagne, Claude glass (a mirror for viewing landscapes), confetti, Countess de Castiglione, crickets, cumulonimbus clouds, dahlias and gladioli, the Dark Tower (a literary nightclub), divan, elephant-shaped buildings, enthusiasm, fanfare, far niente (doing nothing and enjoying it), faux jewels, felines, fireworks, folly (foolhardy structures), frilly lingerie, giochi d'acqua (water jokes), gloves, heels, hello, italics, jester, kimono, Kumari (living goddesses in Nepal), art for art's sake, lazzi (Renaissance comic gags), lightning, love notes, marvels (curiosities), masquerades, milk baths, miracles, Miserere (a choral composition), moritsuke (Japanese food arrangement), mouches (fake beauty marks), Nebula (a ballet), nectar and ambrosia, obelisk, obsidian (volcanic glass), ogi (Japanese folding fan), omelet, origami, painted ladies (models), pell-mell, pentimento (blotted out part of a painting), perfume, pillowbook, pouf (hairstyle), polo and badminton, Venetian lace, Islamic etiquette guide from the 11th century, enthusiastic quadrilles (dances), quintessence (sought-for nonexistent element), red lipstick, ruff and cravat, saffron, sequins, showstopper performance, silence, soteltie (dish for table decoration), string games, underwater, swing (suspended seat variety), talk, tassel, tea, tempest, thaumatrope (toy), top hat, bullfighter's costume, trapeze, truffle, turban, twilight, umbrella, unicorn, velocity, viriditas (life force), female wanderers, weekend, whistling, white paint for decor, xenia (ancient Greek hospitality), text of memorization techniques, and yes.
As you can see, the list bends toward the exotic and the literary while remaining grounded in fashion and taste. Obvious choices are missing (such as chocolate) that remind us that this is a book about the author's tastes.
The listings are beautifully illustrated, a big plus for the book, and some recipes are included.
For me, the descriptions could have been a bit more exhaustive . . . along with fewer of them about ordinary things. Rather than an encyclopedia, I think it would have made more sense to have grouped related topics and let the writing play off of more dimensions that way.
But it's a fun book. The joy you receive will relate directly to your degree of ignorance about and interest in these subjects.
I'm having to force myself to read only a little at a time to make it last longer, like I'd do with a fancy bar of chocolate. I'm already wondering if she'll consider a second volume, as I am now noticing exquisite things all around me that I'd love to know the story of. I know I'll be giving copies to friends for years to come, beginning with this Christmas!
My mother-in-law is a successful artist and her style is definitely eclectic. She is a voracious reader. My son recently proposed to his girlfriend who is a lovely young woman who works supporting the arts and has a very strong artistic talent and interest. Due to distance, we haven't seen them as much as we'd like so I was kind of still on the learning curve as to her likes/dislikes.
Solution: Bought two copies; looked them over when they got here and thought they exceeded my expectations.
Result: Two home runs! Both recipients were enamored with their gifts! I think I would have enjoyed reading it also, but they were gift wrapped quickly upon arrival so only a cursory glance was possible. I may have some time in my schedule after the Super Bowl & March Madness so I may ask to borrow one back.
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