Daniel Lombardo has written just the book I imagined writing about the
Windmills of New England. Its subtitle of Their genius, madness,
history, & future gives a good idea of the mixture of subjects
within, and the "obvious" chapters necessary in any comprehensive coverage
of the subject are all present - covering the history of windmills, and how
they work, and following up with details of remaining mills, and the ones
lost along the way. The history covers windmills throughout the world, and
is largely drawn from other sources (which are carefully referenced) - which
is no bad thing; it's fairly difficult to produce a summary of this subject
without drawing on the work of other experts.
However, as any visitor to Cape Cod will have noticed, in this part of the
USA, windmills are not just historical objects - they have taken on a life
beyond the simple everyday need they once satisfied.of grinding the corn. As
such, there are numerous reproduction windmills to be seen, and there were
once a number of windmill collectors who bought up a number of windmills to
make into features on their New England estates. Chapters on these aspects include
"Curious Reproduction Windmills and the People who Love Them", and "The Windmill
as Whirligig, Lawn Ornament, and Icon of the Minature Golf Course".
The details on each remaining mill are extensive, majoring on the personal
story of the mill, rather than on dry technical facts and figures. The details of the
reproductions (which often count as historic building in their own right, just never
having been used for milling) are if possible even more personal - since their stories
are so closely tied with the houses they have generally become. The author notes that
the search for such windmills, many undocumented, involves a good dose of serendipidy - a
fact I can attest to, and I'm sure that there are even more such stuctures still
waiting to be found on the Cape.
Subsequent chapters include windmills in literature and other arts, and the very topical
subject of wind energy to serve our modern energy needs. Appendices provide a 5 day
windmill trail, to visit many of the mills discussed in the book, together with a compendium
of mill "sayings, aphorisms and terms", plus a long bibliography (in which I must admit this
Perhaps the one disappointment in the book is seen in some of the illustrations.
There are certainly many well chosen illustrations, drawn both from historical
collections, and also taken by the author, but a number have not been reproduced as
sharp than they could be. Some of this is due to the curious canvas effect
postcards that were once popular, and which do not scan well, but unfortunately
other images that do not suffer from such an inbuilt disadvantage are also poorly
reproduced. One picture in particular of modern wind turbines is of a very low
resolution - as if the draft proofing image was somehow mistakenly left in
place for the final print run.
The author notes "In this book, my deepest hope is to revive the windmill as a living,
churning, creaking part of both the physical landscape and of our imagination". I feel
he has achieved that admirably, and I'm glad to see this heavyweight coverage of an area
whose windmilling heritage and imagery I so admire.
Windmills of New England - Their genius, madness, history, & future, Daniel Lombardo, On Cape Publications,