The Bicycle, Pryor Dodge (1996)

A lavishly illustrated history of bicycles

Flammarion, 2-08013-650-X 225 pp £20

This is a truly sumptuous book, based on the author’s extraordinary collection of bicycles and cycle-related ephemera. There are hundreds of pictures – from the early velocipedes and Draisnes, to the promotional material to period shots of them in use. Every page is illustrated, mostly in colour, and entire double-page spreads are devoted to almost pornographic depictions of, among other things, pedals from the 1860s.

Accompanying the photographers is a scholarly account of cycling from earliest times, including the social developments that accompanied the first cycling boom, cycling organisations and the industrial backstory to the Victorian and Edwardian bike craze.

Dodge’s collection is fabulous, and this, luscious book does it proud. If I have one beef it is that it makes a claim to bring things up to the present day, with a brief mention of mountain bikes, human powered vehicles and other recent innovations. In truth, the period up to about 1920 is lavishly covered. Thereafter, the coverage is so slight as to have been better left out. Hopefully, some collector of cycle-related matter will do a job on the second half of the twentieth century will produce a volume that is the equal of this.

PS August 08

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