9781858940724 / 1858940729

Story of Time


Publisher:Merrell Publishers



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About the book:

The press has been sniffy about the way the National Maritime Museum has "dumbed down" its galleries during the recent refurbishment--but there's no sign of such a strategy in this handsome companion to its international exhibition on Time. A perfect antidote to millennial tosh, The Story of Time captures the diverse ways in which cultures experience, measure, and resist the passage of time. Visually rich, its images reproduced to a very high quality, nonetheless, if this book were just a catalogue, the reader's pleasure would soon pall. Consider, for example, the picture of a Babylonian baked clay tablet on which are recorded New Moons for the years 103 to 100 BC. What better icon of futility could there be than this table of numbers, endlessly iterated? There is little else as drab as this: the exhibits--comprising everything from paintings to astronomical instruments to textiles to maps and documents, from places and times far too numerous to list here--are a credit to the skills and imaginations of the curators. But all these things, by definition, deal with something that can only be experienced, never shown. On this point the book, interspersed throughout with short, eclectic articles on all kinds of subjects related to time, perception, decay--the list goes on--wields a major advantage over its parent exhibition. Particularly refreshing is Joy Hendry's short account of the eclectic approach to time taken in Japan. In common with other peoples in the region, the Japanese lack a notion of time as a continuing entity. "Marked with events and periods but otherwise relatively homogenous", Japanese time is an agglomeration of local and overseas calendars and zodiacs--and not a clay tablet in sight. --Simon Ings

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