‘Hail to the lavatory!’ is the first sentence in this eccentric and surprisingly charming book which celebrates the history of water closets, bathrooms, chamber pots and associated sanitary ware. I bought the book at a library sale about 10 years ago, drawn to the amusing subject and the enthusiasm of the author.
The book is more about design and architecture, rather than social history – hence the library sticker (still attached to the spine) which classifies the book as interior design. It begins with an essay about the history of sanitation, beginning with the Romans and going through the mucky medieval era, to the innovations of later periods. The rest of the book consists of colour plates, generally in chronological order. Most of the photographs are very good quality but some were obviously taken in the two decades before the book was published and could be clearer. However, I try to remember that this was before digital photography and the computer-aided enhancement which dominates images today.
There are some really stunning items included, such as beautifully decorated ceramic water closets, tiles shimmering with marble, handsome carved furniture which concealed chamber pots and magnificent gothic bathrooms. Stately homes and private collections comprise the majority of sources. The book is a little out of date now, as the details about current sanitary ware companies will have changed and also a lot has happened in design since it was published in 1995 by Pavilion Books.
I think this is one of my classier reviews, as I haven’t made a single toilet-related pun. Phew, what a relief.