Windmills of New England


Windmills of New England 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 site features...)

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, ISBN 0-9719547-7-1

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