Books about Angkor

Sep 7th, 2003, 11:29 AM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 715
Books about Angkor

The purpose of this message is to briefly compare three books that will probably appeal to anyone planning a trip to Angkor or enjoying memories of having been there. I enjoy all of them for different reasons and you might too.

The book most messages in the boards seem to recommend is Angkor -- An Introduction to the Temples by Dawn Rooney, a Khmer art historian. Copyrighted initially in 1994, it's easy to understand why it has already become a classic of sorts. It provides all the general information the novice (such as I) would want to know about Khmer history and art. There are also detailed descriptions of how to visit each temple and what to look for, suggested itineraries accompanied by maps and temple diagrams, a limited number of photographs by Peter Danford and a wealth of practical information about Siem Reap that, considering the publication date, is easily updated by visiting the message boards here.

Ancient Angkor is somewhat newer, published in 1999, and deserves as much attention as the above book. It is co-authored by Michael Freeman, a photographer specializing in Angkor and Southeast Asia, and Claude Jacques, a teacher of Khmer history who is involved in Angkor restoration projects. Compared to the Rooney book, this publication's general information about Khmer history and art is ample though more condensed. Attention to details about visiting the Angkor temples is about the same in both books. This one contains less detail regarding the practicalities of staying in Siem Reap. Where this book excels in grand fashion is that, having been co-authored by its photographer, there are 350 color photographs printed on paper that does the fine images justice. There are also listings of the best sights sorted by architecture, mythological scenes, great views, and a ranking of temples according to general interest. Special note: Serious photographers will appreciate the detailed recommendations about the time of day to seek specific views at the various temples.

The last book I mention is very different from the other two; instead of being a guide book, it is a fine art photography book that will surely heighten anticipation of your first visit to Angkor or will inspire you to go there yet a second or third time. Sanctuary -- The Temples of Angkor is published by Phaedon, renowned for its fine photography books. The images are by National Geographic photographer Steve McCurry. (You might remember the image of the Afghan girl featured on the cover of numerous Geographic publications that has become an icon of his work.) The very special quality of the photographs in Sanctuary, which are mostly full-page images, is that they are artistic -- they invoke emotional response -- whereas Freeman's work in Ancient Angkor is mostly documentary, probably by design. A relatively brief preface by John Guy, an expert on the culture and history of Southeast Asia, provides the only text. My gripes: The saffron-colored font in homage to the monks' robes make it very difficult to read the preface and captions. And considering that the captions are provided at the end of the book, it would have been better if page numbers had been placed on all pages for easy reference. But don't let that prevent you from purchasing this wonderful book. In fact, an interest in Angkor is not necessary to enjoy this beautifully laid out collection of images from one of the finest award-winning photographers of our time.

Comments about these or other books relating to Angkor, whether factual or fiction?

MikeBuckley is offline  
Sep 7th, 2003, 02:51 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 530
There is one other book that might be added to this list, for those who are interestd in modern day history that took place around Angkor. It's called The Gate, by Francois Bizot. I found it in a Borders shop this summer. Have not yet read it, but bought it because I saw some very good reviews of it.

It's the true story of a young French scholar of Khmer pottery and Buddhist ritual, who was working in rural Cambodia in 1971, when he was arrested on suspicion of being an American spy. This is the story of how he survived to become the only Westerner to escape a Khmer Rouge prison.
I think much of the book takes place in and around Angkor and PP. Will let you know how it is after I read it.
Lindsey is offline  
Sep 7th, 2003, 04:52 PM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 32,628
Nice reviews of those books - I have all of them. I also purchased some other historical photography books on Angkor while I was there. The bookshop in the waiting area of the airport has the best collection of books on Angkor and Cambodia of anyplace I've seen. They had many books that are simply unavailabe in the US.
Kathie is offline  
Sep 7th, 2003, 06:30 PM
  #4  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 715
Kathie, I'd appreciate the titles and one-line summaries of the books having to do with historical photography of Angkor. I'm particularly interested in which decade(s) the photos were made, if that's not an unreasonable request.

You can imagine the joy of attending McCurry's slide show at the National Geographic headquarters to debut Sanctuaries. Seeing those rich images on a large screen and listening to him talk about them was a unique experience.
MikeBuckley is offline  
Sep 7th, 2003, 06:41 PM
  #5  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 715
Lindsey, please do make a point of letting us know your impressions of The Gate once you've read it.
MikeBuckley is offline  
Sep 7th, 2003, 10:19 PM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,107
Just a few notes to add to this excellent post (thank you, Mike).

I believe Dawn Rooney's book has been updated since initial publication. There are several different editions. We have found it to be the best book to carry around for self-guiding, because of its size and thoroughness.

Angkor: Cities and Temples is a beautiful coffee table book by Claude Jacques and Michael Freeman. The photos are gorgeous.

Most important, buy your books in Bangkok or at home, rather than in Cambodia. Many of the books in Cambodia are bootleg prints (even at the entry gate to the temples) and the actual author and publisher get nothing from the sale. I know this to be true for Dawn Rooney's books.
Marilyn is offline  
Sep 8th, 2003, 08:22 AM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 32,628
Mike, seeing the photos and listening to McCurry talk must have been a dazzling experience!

Also, Marilyn's comment is well-taken. The books sold for a couple of dollars outside the temples in Cambodia are bootleg copies.

Mike, the book I was most delighted to purchase at the airport in Siem Reap is called Ruins of Angkor Cambodia in 1909. It's by T. Dieulefils, printed in facsimile by River Books in Bangkok (2001). Wonderful old photos of Angkor accompianed by detailed captions in French, English and German. The original book was printed in an edition of 500 numbered copies. This fascimile book was reproduced from book #49, which was discovered by a book collector in Bangkok in 2001.

Another book I'd like to recommend for its stunning photographs is called Sacred Places by Kenro Izu. While it has a number of wonderful photos of Angkor, it also has photos of some other of my favorite places like Borobudor, the Pak Ou caves in Laos, Mustang in Nepal, A number of Egyptian sites, Petra, a number of the stone circles in England, and wonderful sites I have yet to see in places like Tibet and Burma.

I have another book of historical photos of Angkor that I can't locate right now. I will post info on it when I find it.
Kathie is offline  
Sep 8th, 2003, 06:01 PM
  #8  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 715
Marilyn, your comment about people buying books at the gates to Angkor is interesting. That seems just a tad bit late for reading up on it, huh. I prefer months in advance.

I'm leaning toward using Ancient Angkor rather than the Rooney book as my self-guiding book. It's larger than the Rooney but my wife will be the one lugging it around. Even so, I'll make copious notes extracted from Rooney's book so I have the best of both.

MikeBuckley is offline  
Sep 8th, 2003, 06:08 PM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,107
Mike, you're right, one would hope that reading was done well in advance, especially with such a complex subject. But this board has certainly taught me how unprepared some people are when they go on vacation.

Actually, I was thinking more about the extra books that we always seem to buy once we are in the place. You see some of these books and think, "I won't be able to get this anywhere else." But you can almost certainly get them in Bangkok.

You wouldn't believe the library we now have on Angkor and Khmer art. Many, many books, including Mouhot's original
"Travels in Siam, Cambodia and Laos 1858-1860."
Marilyn is offline  
Sep 8th, 2003, 06:18 PM
  #10  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 715
Thanks for the information, Kathie. Ruins of Angkor is exactly the sort of thing I was hoping you'd mention. It appeals to my interest in travel and early photography. (The "birth" of photography was only about 70 years earlier, depending on the person and process to which we attribute that incredible start.) The book is already on my wish list at Amazon.

Take good care of your copy of Izu's Sacred Places. The cost of copies available through Amazon range from $100 to $600.

To change the subject somewhat since you like old photographs of Egypt, this is one to add to your wish list: Excursions Along the Nile: The Photographic Discovery of Ancient Egypt published by the Santa Barbera Museum of Art.
MikeBuckley is offline  
Sep 8th, 2003, 06:33 PM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 32,628
Thanks for the recommendation, Mike. I'm stunned at how expensive the Sacred Places book is now. I bought it when it first came out.

By the way, do you know about Asia Books in Bangkok? They have a website as well as seven or eight locations in Bangkok. A number of books that were unobtainable here in the states were available at Asia books.
Kathie is offline  
Sep 8th, 2003, 06:40 PM
  #12  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 715
Marilyn, does Travels in Siam, Cambodia and Laos 1858-1860 contain photographs taken during those travels? The reason I ask is that that's about the time that photography became practical enough to include photographs in travel books.

--Mike Buckley
MikeBuckley is offline  
Sep 8th, 2003, 07:45 PM
  #13  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,107
Hi Mike -- The Mouhot book does not have photos. It has illustrations by other artists that are based on Mouhot's sketches and photographs.

John Thomson, a Scot, was the first serious photographer to shoot Angkor in 1865-68. There is a book that contains some of his photos called "A Window to the Orient" by Stephen White, published by University of New Mexico Press. (By the way, Thomson also shot a few stereo photos, which is my husband's field.)

We have another book you may be interested in, titled "Ruins of Angkor: Cambodia in 1909". Photography by P. Dieulefils, published by River Books in Bangkok, distributed in the US by Art Media Resources in Chicago. 120 exquisite b&w plates.
Marilyn is offline  
Sep 8th, 2003, 08:12 PM
  #14  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 715
Marilyn, thanks for the info about Window to the Orient and for seconding Kathie's nomination of Ruins of Angkor.
MikeBuckley is offline  
Sep 8th, 2003, 08:24 PM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,107
Duh. I DID read this whole post, but must have gone brain dead for a minute there. Sorry, Kathie!!
Marilyn is offline  
Sep 9th, 2003, 06:18 AM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 32,628
I'm afraid all of this book talk got to me, and I logged onto Amazon last night and bought the Egypt book you recommended, Mike, as well as a few others.

Marilyn, did you buy the Cambodia 1909 book here in the US? I'm interested that it did get distributed here. As mentioned, I bought mine in Cambodia, and when I looked to see if it was available here when I returned, I came up with nothing.
Kathie is offline  
Sep 9th, 2003, 10:05 AM
  #17  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,107
Kathie, I will have to ask my husband who was the actual purchaser. We have bought books in Bangkok, Cambodia, and here in the US. I'll post later when I find out (if he can remember).

If I have a little extra time, perhaps I'll catalog our book collection on Cambodia and list it here. We have a lot, and several interesting ones that didn't look like much when we bought them but in fact are full of fascinating information.
Marilyn is offline  
Sep 9th, 2003, 12:48 PM
  #18  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,107
Kathie, he can't recall whether he bought it in Bangkok or on line here in the US. But it does have that US distribution line in the front. Does your copy?
Marilyn is offline  
Sep 9th, 2003, 01:22 PM
  #19  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 715
Kathie, I hope you really enjoy Excursions Along the Nile. When it arrives, take a look at the image on page 85. I'm lucky enough to have one of the original 15" X 19" prints (not a facsimile). Seeing the clarity of the image and realizing the incredible difficulty of making pictures at the time never ceases to amaze me.
MikeBuckley is offline  
Sep 10th, 2003, 05:47 AM
  #20  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 32,628
Marilyn, mine does not have a line about US distribution, but it does have a line about UK distribution on the copyright page.

And Mike, I'm very much looking forward to the Egypt book.
Kathie is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -

FODOR'S VIDEO

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 03:24 PM.