James Smith & Sons Umbrellas

Hazelwood House






In stock



Umbrellas have been around for thousands of years. In fact they were invented to shield the Pharaohs from the sun, not the rain. Which is to say, they were a symbol of wealth and power.

Two thousand years later, the umbrella had become an object meant to protect you from the rain, and if you’re a character in a Dickens novel and you have one, it’s because you’re too poor to own a carriage — which is to say, it’s a sign of poverty. It’s gone back and forth between other social connotations, too — is it a woman’s style object, or symbol of a businessman’s power?

In between are two millennia of invention and refinement, from heavy whale bone to feather-light aluminium, and of inspired literature (the umbrella appears over 350 times in Dickens), philosophy (Derrida and Nietzsche both wrote about umbrellas), film-making (think Mary Poppins, or The Umbrellas of Cherbourg) and both Western and Eastern art.

In Brolliology — an actual word, by the way, meaning the study of umbrellas — Marion Rankine covers all that and more, with lavish illustrations, helping us to realise our deep connection to this most forgettable everyday object — which we only truly appreciate when we don’t have one.

Author biog: Marion Rankine is a London-based writer and bookseller. Her work has appeared in the Times Literary Supplement, the Guardian, Overland, For Books’ Sake, and elsewhere. Brolliology is her first book.

  • Recently Viewed Products