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Encyclopedia of the Exquisite: An Anecdotal History of Elegant Delights [Deckle Edge] [Hardcover]

Jessica Kerwin Jenkins
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Nov. 2 2010
Encyclopedia of the Exquisite is a lifestyle guide for the Francophile and the Anglomaniac, the gourmet and the style maven, the armchair traveler and the art lover. It’s an homage to the esoteric world of glamour that doesn’t require much spending but makes us feel rich.

Taking a cue from the exotic encyclopedias of the sixteenth century, which brimmed with mysterious artifacts, Jessica Kerwin Jenkins’s Encyclopedia of the Exquisite focuses on the elegant, the rare, the commonplace, and the delightful. A com­pendium of style, it merges whimsy and practicality, traipsing through the fine arts and the worlds of fashion, food, travel, home, garden, and beauty.

Each entry features several engaging anecdotes, illuminating the curious past of each enduring source of beauty. Subjects covered include the explosive history of champagne; the art of lounging on a divan; the emergence of “frillies,” the first lacy, racy lingerie; the ancient uses of sweet-smelling saffron; the wild riot incited by the appearance of London’s first top hat; Julia Child’s tip for cooking the perfect omelet; the polarizing practice of wearing red lipstick during World War II; Louis XIV’s fondness for the luscious Bartlett pear; the Indian origin of badminton; Parliament’s 1650 attempt to suppress Europe’s beauty mark fad; the evolution of the Japanese kimono; the pil­grimage of Central Park’s Egyptian obelisk; and the fanciful thrill of dining alfresco.

Cleverly illustrated, Encyclopedia of the Exquisite is an ode to life’s plenty, from the extravagant to the eccentric. It is a cele­bration of luxury that doesn’t necessarily require money.

Frequently Bought Together

Customers buy this book with The Art of Instruction: Vintage Educational Charts from the 19th and 20th Centuries CDN$ 24.45

Encyclopedia of the Exquisite: An Anecdotal History of Elegant Delights + The Art of Instruction: Vintage Educational Charts from the 19th and 20th Centuries
Price For Both: CDN$ 44.51

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Review

"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."
Tory Burch
 
"A wonderful mélange of chic and amusing tidbits — this book makes me smile."
Michael Kors

“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."
Glamour

"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."
Entertainment Weekly

"A gallimaufry of curious and unusual entries, it's full of charm and erudition."
Avenue Magazine

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.

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Most helpful customer reviews
By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
"And the house of Israel called its name Manna. And it was like white coriander seed, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey." -- Exodus 16:31 (NKJV)

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.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  49 reviews
33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars earthly delights Dec 6 2010
By D. Weisgall - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
From Nectar and Ambrosia to Sequins, from Omelets to Frilly Lingerie, Jessica Kerwin Jenkins has compiled a handbook of pleasures, a guide to refinements, both exotic and humble. Readable and whimsical, it's a book to savor, like a big box of chocolate Truffles, which sublime fungus, of course, merits an entry--and a recipe. This is not a frivolous compendium; Jenkins has done serious research, so readers learn the Venetian origins of the Umbrella, and how it was used by Thai acrobats in performance. She also understands that the exquisite is not limited to the material world, and there are entries on Twilight, Wanderers, Far Niente, and the elusive Quintessence. There is an extensive bibliography, too, for those whose curiosity has been inflamed. And as an object, the book itself is exquisite, with deckle-edged pages, and a binding stamped with gold.
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Alphabetical Soupcons about the Origins and Development of Acquired Tastes Jan. 4 2011
By Donald Mitchell - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
"And the house of Israel called its name Manna. And it was like white coriander seed, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey." -- Exodus 16:31 (NKJV)

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.
37 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lives up to its name Nov. 12 2010
By Julia M Corley - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Encyclopedia of the Exquisite is a fantastically delightful read. It was clear when I read the introduction that the author and I are kindred spirits. This book engages the little girl in me who thought the glass doorknobs on our old house were made of diamonds and clearly had magical powers. Each entry is it's own adventure, like a peephole into a bygone era. The author writes clearly and beautifully, making each bit come to life on the page and the illustrations are gorgeous!
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!
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Novel book idea, lovely dust jacket July 15 2011
By J. Austin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The title, beautiful dust jacket and review by Sarah Jessica Parker drew me in on this one. While the idea of an encyclopedia of discriminately selected entries is appealing, I can't say I found more than 1/2 of these entries exquisite. Of the half I enjoyed I did enjoy them completely. Also I was quite happy to find such a nice bibliography in the back. Perhaps it is just a matter of taste but some of the historical figures reviewed in this book were a bit disturbing. They left me feeling the same way French films often do (depressed). I would give this book an 8 out of 10 with most points going for such a novel book idea and the remaining going for the bibliography and the entries that piqued my interest.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Compilation - Makes A Wonderful Gift Jan. 11 2011
By radio - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I saw this book reviewed in the WSJournal and it seemed like it might be the answer to Christmas gifts for several artistically inclined folks on my list.

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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