There's something particularly appealing about a book covering a significant subject that is so well researched and written that you know that it will become THE definitive reference on that subject for the foreseeable future. "The Life and Works of Glasgow Architects James Miller and John James Burnet" by John Stewart is just such a book. Superbly researched and written, and illustrated with plenty of black and white photographs, this is a book we'd recommend without reservation.
We've long been admirers of the work of both these architects (and, indeed, provided a photograph of Burnet's Campbeltown library for the book), but it would be fair to say that until we read the book we'd not been aware of just how important their contributions were to the Scotland we see around us today. Time and again, we found ourselves surprised to see photographs of building we'd not realised were by either of these architects. And the cover photograph of Miller's Stirling railway station, which we misidentified as his amazing Wemyss Bay railway station until we saw the "Welcome to Stirling" sign, gives us somewhere else to visit next time we're in the city.
You get a very good sense of the book from the description on the rear cover:
"This is the first full biography of two of Scotland's most eminent Architects, James Miller and John James Burnet. While born just three years apart into very different circumstances - Burnet was the son of a wealthy Glasgow architect and Miller a farmer's son - their careers and lives became intertwined as they competed for work and eventually the role of Scotland's leading architect. Born in 1857 and 1860 respectively, one inherited and the other established successful practices in Glasgow at the zenith of that city's wealth in the late 19th century.
"John James Burnet, who was educated at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, and led his profession in Glasgow in the latter years of the 19th and early years of the 20th centuries, produced many of the city's finest buildings. These include The Athenaeum on Buchanan Street; Charing Cross Mansions; numerous city-centre commercial buildings such as Waterloo Chambers and Atlantic Chambers and the Townhouses on University Avenue. After moving to London, his work included the extension of the British Museum, The Daily Telegraph Building on Fleet Street and Adelaide House by London Bridge. Burnet was knighted and awarded the RIBA's Gold Medal in 1923 and is recognized as one of Scotland's finest architects.
"James Miller is simply Scotland's most prolific architect. During his long career he designed The Empire Exhibition of 1901, Glasgow Royal Infirmary, Glasgow Central Station, Wemyss Bay Station, St Enoch's Underground Station, Turnberry Hotel, Peebles Hydro Hotel, Gleneagles Hotel, the interiors of the SS Lusitania and SS Aquitania, Hampden Park, Forteviot Model Village, the Institution of Civil Engineers in Westminster, numerous banks, commercial buildings and churches in Glasgow and beyond as well as schools, country houses, factories and town halls. Despite this extraordinary output and his considerable architectural contribution to Scotland's heritage, he has received relatively little acclaim, until now. This is a fascinating double biography, the story of Burnet and Miller's parallel lives and work, set against the background of the booming Empire's 'Second City'."