Lighter Reading

Utilitarian products are usually not thought of as works of art. The Dunhill Petrol Lighter: 'A Unique Story' by Luciano Bottoni and Davide Blei explores the lighters crafted by British accessory maker Alfred Dunhill with all the passion of an art history professor communicating the life story of Picasso and his masterpieces.

The informational backbone of the book comes from Stan Gomersall, the Dunhill Museum's former curator, and Count Muzio Albertoni, a renowned Dunhill collector. During the 1980s, the duo compiled a catalog from an assortment of old catalogs, which formed the basis for the book's research. The study was originally begun by Umberto de Concilio, who was president of the club of Italian collectors of Dunhill lighters. Bottoni, an avid collector of the lighters and a club member, and Blei then took over the project in 2001 upon de Concilio's untimely death.

The work includes 1,000 photos of lighters produced between 1914 and 1959 as well as old advertisements and detailed design graphs. You can glimpse some of the most exclusive and elaborate models ever created by the company, and read about the goings-on behind the scenes, such as the business relationships that were formed to produce the lighters. The role of the lighter in the development of the Dunhill Company and its evolution are also documented.

Released in November with only 5,000 copies worldwide, The Dunhill Petrol Lighter may be tough to find, but look for it at and at Dunhill stores. The suggested retail price is $275.

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