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Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, November 24, 2000

‘Looking Back’
a rich pictorial
of isle history

Bullet "Hawai'i Looking Back: An Illustrated History of the Islands" By Glen Grant, Bennett Hymer and the Bishop Museum Archives (Mutual Publishing), 418 pages, hardcover, $59.95.

By Burl Burlingame

Hawaii publishing doesn't lack for picture books, but they're generally of the remember-your-vacation type. It has been a good long time since there was a definitive pictorial history of Hawaii, probably not since "Saga of the Sandwich Islands" was published 40 years ago. "Hawai'i Looking Back: An Illustrated History of the Islands" fills the niche admirably.

A lot has changed since "Saga." Photographic-reproduction technique has blossomed, and "Looking Back" has terrific color printing and a layout agenda that highlights the details of each image. Black-and-white pictures are presented in duotone printing, which warms and deepens the art work.

The book was written by Glen Grant, produced by Bennett Hymer and draws so strongly on Bishop Museum's archives that the museum is listed as a co-creator.

The scholarly scope ranges from the first images and sketches of the islands until the present day, with the bulk of the material being pre-war. I must admit it's interesting seeing things you remember as recent events presented as "history," such as the voyages of Hokule'a and the rise of Pacific Rim cuisine celebrity chefs. The Hawaiian Renaissance and a discussion of our multicultural society concludes the volume on a wistful note.

Armchair historians will likely be picking it apart for years for assumed errors, and perhaps Mutual, when it's reprinted, will make corrections. For example, a quick look at the military section shows several errors -- calling a Japanese A6M2, number "AI-101" a AGMZ A1-101, for example. On the other hand, the book makes full use of proper Hawaiian diacritical punctuation.

This is quite a production. Expect it to be the Year 2000 Christmas-present du jour.

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