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Ashen Sky

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Ashen Sky. The Letters of Pliny the Younger and the Eruption of Vesuvius
Illustrated by Barry Moser. Written and translated by Benedicte Gilman. The J. Paul Getty Museum: 2007. Pg. 40. 16 b&w illustrations.) ISBN 13: 978-0-89236-900-3.

Reviewed by Herbert White - August 31, 2007

Ashen Sky: The Letters of Pliny the Younger and the Eruption of Vesuvius is an intriguing book that includes Pliny the Younger's two surviving letters that describe his eyewitness account of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79. The letters are accompanied by black and white prints of relief engravings drawn by Barry Moser. These remarkable illustrations could have filled a book on their own, offering a graphic representation of the eruption and the horrific toll that it took upon the residents of Pompeii and Herculaneum.

The letters in this volume have been newly translated into English by Benedicte Gilman. In addition to the letters, this book also contains concise and enlightening biographies of Pliny the Elder (Gaius Plinius Secundus), Pliny the Younger (Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus), and the historian, Tacitus (Publius Cornelius Tacitus), on whose behalf the letters were written. Also included is an overview of the eruption, a history of the letter's survival, and an up-to-date list of suggested readings for those wishing to delve further into this fascinating area of study.

Moser's illustrations are based upon the information offered in the letters, and they vividly bring Pliny the Younger's letter to life. Moser is a renowned artist, whose wood engravings have appeared in hundreds of books ranging from the King James Bible to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Currently he is a Professor in Residence in the Art Department at Smith College.

Ashen Sky will enthrall anyone with an interest in Roman history and the Eruption of Mount Vesuvius. It is also a 'must have' book for fans of Moser's artwork.

Related Reviews:

Antiquity Recovered: The Legacy of Pompeii and Herculaneum, edited by Victoria C. Gardner Coates and Jon L. Seydl.
Thirteen essays that chronicle how our understanding of Pompeii and Herculaneum have changed over time, and the place these sites hold in popular culture.

The Lost World of Pompeii, By Colin Amery and Brian Curran Jr.
This is a stunningly illustrated history of the lost world of Pompeii and the ongoing conservation and restoration efforts currently underway.

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