When the publishers paid me the compliment of asking me to write this book I was induced to accept by the fact that it was to be lavishly illustrated throughout in full colour. Now that the text is written I have the unhappy conviction that for the public too the attraction will consist in the illustrations alone.
To many readers a large proportion of the pictures will be familiar. That was inevitable, because those objects which best represent the art of their period have necessarily figured in other books; their being reproduced here in colour may redeem them from banality. Some readers may be shocked by the omission of their favourite masterpieces; but room had to be left for monuments illustrating the art of times or regions less well known. In the wide field which the book attempts to cover there are familiar tracts and tracts of which we are more or less ignorant: where actual remains are abundant and of artistic merit it is tempting to go overmuch into detail and the risk is that we miss seeing the wood for the trees; where objects happen to be few and of less intrinsic worth it is only too easy to overlook the importance they may possess for the history of art -- perhaps the art of another age and of a different land. I have tried to select such documents as best illumine my text, even at the cost of rejecting much that was in itself attractive.
For some of the photographs I am indebted to the generosity of my friend Sir Julian Huxley, for many I have to thank the technical skill of Mr. J. Skeel and M. J. A. Lavaud and, not least, the kindness of the Directors of the museums who have allowed the objects in their charge to be photographed for me -- the Directors of the British Museum, of the Louvre, of the Museums of Damascus, Baghdad, Beirut, Ankara, Istanbul, Philadelphia, Kansas, Chicago, Yale and the Villa Giulia.
Lastly I would express my gratitude to Herr Holle for the labour he has spent upon a book which in its production at any rate is a model of what such a book should be. Leonard Woolley