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Manhole Covers Hardcover – Oct 7 1994

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Product Description


The Melnicks' work occupies a rather indeterminate genre category: part history of material culture, part exercise in obsessive photographic cataloguing of related objects, part crypto-Pop artist's book. There is a crisp and even elegant matter-of-factness to their writing and their pictures, a spare functionalist precision.

(Allan Sekula)

About the Author

Mimi Melnick is an urban archaeologist who lives in Encino, California. Her late husband, Robert Melnick, was a photographer who devoted the last ten years of his life to documenting manhole covers all over the world. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Inside This Book

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 6 reviews
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
My Aunt and Uncle's Book Jan. 12 2000
By Todd G. E. Melnick - Published on
Mimi and Robert Melnick are my aunt and uncle. Uncle Bob is my father's brother. A lifelong non-smoker, Uncle Bob died of lung cancer in his late fifties. Uncle Bob and Aunt Mimi became objects of mild derision in my family when they first announced their project of documenting the manhole covers of Los Angeles and beyond. We found it a somewhat frivolous and Quixotic project; in a word, flakey. My wall-to-wall shag carpeted and formica topped parents thought Bob and Mimi were a little eccentric. Memory is fragile. My memory of them is fading and full of holes. I know that their house was full of antique farm implements. A large tangled mass of found wire hung above their mantle. Their fireplace screen was made of chains of old soda can pull tops. I know that I am wrong about this but I remember books in their library covered in yellow paper and shelved backwards. My parents were amused and puzzled that Bob and Mimi liked to vacation in Bakersfield but my aunt and uncle must have found something very rare there that my parents did not have the patience to see. I didn't really know what sort of incredible treasure Bob and Mimi were until Uncle Bob was dead and Mimi no longer attended our family gatherings and holiday dinners. I am very sorry that I didn't know them better but I loved them very much and their example inspired me to try to find a place for the whimsical or extraordinary in my life. You will find their book beautiful and strange. It is beautiful not least because Mimi and Bob found art and design, found humanity and dignity, in a gritty and ignored urban artifact. And this is pioneering work. Very few before them sought life in the abused quotidian. Now such books documenting the gorgeousness and variety of everyday or even debased objects are rather common.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Man Oh Manhole! Art, history and engineering under our feet! Aug. 14 2009
By David Ciaffardini - Published on
Very nicely designed book that documents a point in the urban planning process where aesthetic and utilitarian concerns were combined. More than 40 pages of text at front of book provide a solid history about manhole covers and similar utility covers, again, pointing out various aesthetic and utilitarian concerns regarding their purpose and design.

Further information, including locale and manufacturing dates and other details, accompany each of the hundreds of sharp and clear black and white photos depicting a dizzying array of covers spanning more than a century of United States history. Sadly, as the author points out, the current trend in manhole covers discards any artistic or aesthetic concerns leaving us with generic contemporary manhole covers. But that wasn't always the case as this book points out.

Besides the art of utility covers, this book provides insight into some of what is going on under the streets and sidewalks of America and what engineers had to confront in their task of making such things accessible. There's more here than you might imagine.
Great book on manholes FINALLY May 31 2013
By Helen Britten - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Love this book. It has great photographs and is very informative. Some of the photos in the book would be great framed. I have long been fascinated by the art beneath our feet. Manholes are functional and artistic. Thanks to Mimi Melnick maybe more people will come to appreciate their beauty and history.
5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Very Disappointing June 28 2008
By Dick - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I put this book into our rummage-sale pile today. As a longtime fan of manhole covers, my high expectations for this book proved unwarranted. The author obviously knows a lot about manhole covers, but fails to share it with us. Instead, there is a minimal text and a great many repetitive pictures, some of which could only be loved by the photographer. If you want to read a model for what this book could have been, I would recommend "The Carriage Trade," or "Building the Nineteenth Century," or "The Baldwin Locomotive Works."
Five Stars Dec 18 2014
By Stephan T Gschwind - Published on
Format: Hardcover