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Good Reads  Natural History  Art

King of Dust Adventures in Forgotten Sculpture

By: Alex Woodcock(Author)
208 pages, b/w photos
King of Dust
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  • King of Dust ISBN: 9781915068354 Paperback May 2024 Not in stock: Usually dispatched within 1-2 weeks
  • King of Dust ISBN: 9781908213693 Hardback May 2019 Out of Print #247493
Selected version: £12.00
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About this book

King of Dust is a stonemason's personal journey through the landscapes of south-west England and the sculpture which first inspired him to pick up tools: the Romanesque. In the early years of the 21st century, mentally exhausted, the archaeologist Alex Woodcock carved a stone for the first time and realised how much more there was to learn about the subject from which he had made his life's work. Determined to understand the work by making and carving, as well as theoretically, he retrained as a stonemason and spent several years working at Exeter Cathedral. Ten years after that first carving a move to Cornwall prompted an urge to re-explore the little known Romanesque (12th century) carvings of the south-west. King of Dust follows a year of these wanderings, being both an archaeology of the images and a meditation on learning the craft. Ultimately it is about the power of medieval art to transform a life.

Customer Reviews


Alex Woodcock is a stonemason, writer and poet from the south coast of England. Following his PhD in medieval sculpture he spent six years working at Exeter Cathedral, during which time he wrote Gargoyles and Grotesques and Of Sirens and Centaurs. His work regularly appears in journals including Reliquiae and Elementum.

By: Alex Woodcock(Author)
208 pages, b/w photos
Media reviews

"King of Dust is a personal and illuminating pilgrimage into the mysterious deep time of the medieval stonemason's art as it manifests itself, here, right now. And Alex Woodcock is a fantastic travelling companion."
– David Keenan

"A story of deep knowledge, self-discovery, mark-making and deft articulation, King of Dust is a masonic portal through which Alex Woodcock explores humankind's relationship with stone."
– Dan Richards

"'Through his irresistible, honest and gentle detective work he reveals how creative expression in stone has the power to transform human lives."
– Beatrice Searle

"I loved exploring the spaces of this book – the dim forgotten corners, margins and thresholds of architecture, history and belief, teeming with life and meaning. Written with the tactility and insight of a craftsman and the effortless erudition of a scholar, it is a passionate and warm meditation on time, on stone and its shaping, on the place of mystery in the everyday. It acknowledges and celebrates change and continuity, restoration and ruin, the poetics of failure and of perpetual transformation."
– Amy Sackville

"Deeply knowledgeable – Woodcock knows his way around both stone carving technique and medieval sculpture – yet also richly sensitive to feeling and impression."
– Pamela Petro

"In Alex Woodcock's meditative journey around the ancient churches of Devon, Dorset and Cornwall something wonderful is achieved. The centuries in-between drift away as he evocatively connects with the carvers of the Romanesque sculpture that he has sought out."
– Andrew Ziminiski

"What makes it so wonderful is the originality of the subject matter and the clarity and honesty with which he approaches it."
– Mathew Clayton, Caught by the River

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