14 FEBRUARY 1970, Page 19

Shorter notices

Shelter and Society edited by Paul Oliver (Barrie and Rockliff: 1 he Cresset Press 63s). This is a fascinating collection of essays on vernacular housing (or 'shelter', as it is called here) in various parts of the world. A study of this kind is long overdue. The contributors to this volume take us on a journey which begins with a look at the extraordinarily rich heritage of Norway and of Switzerland. The several essays which follow are of absorbing interest, and deal with the cellular and organic forms found in the villages of the Black Volta; with the courtyard houses of the cities of Iraq; with the amazingly close-knit residen- tial areas of Old Delhi; with the illegal set- tlements of modern Athens; and with the strange geometric shapes in Drop City in Colorado. Much of the book will therefore be entirely new reading for many archi- tects, planners and others concerned with mass-housing.

The First Trial of Mary. Queen of Scots Gordon Donaldson (Batsford 50s). Professor Donaldson's book is a close analysis of the government inquiry held in England after her flight there in 1568. He re-examines the Casket Letters and the whole question of Mary's possible involvement in Darnley's murder, and is satisfied that she had 'fore- knowledge of schemes against her husband', but not necessarily of his murder. (Indeed he considers that the balance of the evidence suggests that she was not implicated in the events at Kirk o'Field.) It is impossible, even in so cautious a historian as Professor Donaldson, to avoid some speculative ele- ments in considering Mary's role; but the book proves to be a balanced, dispassionate and scholarly study of a hotly debated issue.