There's something really fascinating about a lighthouse. In her foreword to this book, Princess Anne sums it up rather well: "Lighthouses are an enduring symbol of man's tenacity, ingenuity and altruism in the face of the unrelenting power and destructive force of nature." That this fascination is widely shared is obvious from the many books that have been written and published about lighthouses. Is there room for one more?
In some ways, "Rock Lighthouses of Britain & Ireland by Christopher Nicholson" can be thought of as a forerunner in the field. The magnificent book you see today is effectively the fourth edition of a book that first appeared, with a slightly different title and coverage, four decades ago. If you are looking for a book that shows off British and Irish lighthouses at their very, very best, then this is the book for you. It's beautifully produced and superbly illustrated with colour images, old photos and prints, plans, maps and everything you need. And the whole thing is tied together with well-written and accessible text produced by an author whose love for his subject is obvious on every page. This is a book we would recommend very highly indeed.
This isn't a comprehensive guide to the lighthouses you are likely to stumble across on your British Isles staycation. Quite the contrary: the lighthouses covered in this book, nineteen of them including six in Scotland, are those you are least likely to see and very highly unlikely to visit. This is a book about the pinnacle of the lighthouse-builder's art and craft, the rock lighthouse: lighthouses built in remote locations on rocks that are sometimes submerged by the tide for at least part of the time. These were lighthouses built with huge difficulty and skill, and no little danger: in many ways they are the purest form of the lighthouse.
The publisher's description gives a good sense of the book: "Rock Lighthouses of Britain & Ireland is a new edition of the classic work on the subject – but with some of the most famous Irish rock lighthouses included. The text has been updated to include the modern technology being used by the lighthouse authorities, as well as all the historical advances made over the centuries at British and Irish rock lights, complemented by scores of new and many stunning photographs. Also included are historic plans and drawings, many of them highly colourful and artistic, as used by the original lighthouse builders. At the end are comprehensive and detailed tables about the rock lighthouses maintained by all three lighthouse authorities.
"Building on the acclaim received for the earlier editions, it brings the history of these iconic structures completely up-to-date, from the day the first granite block was laid, through their construction, automation, the disappearance of the lighthouse keeper, right up to today’s automated operation. Here are some of the world’s most famous rock lighthouses. There are stories of men battling against Nature’s most powerful forces to build a structure designed to save lives on a seemingly impossible site. Rock Lighthouses of Britain & Ireland spans the centuries between the world’s first rock lighthouse on the Eddystone reef, to the very last rock lighthouse, constructed in the traditional style, on Ireland’s Fastnet Rock and accordingly will remain the premier book about rock lighthouses."