JEREMY SMITH flicks through a pictorial recollection of Oxford.

God, according to celebrated American architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, “is in the details”.

An apt observation with which to open this book since it contains a stunning, pictorial recollection of the city of Oxford.

And for those of us who live and work in this city, it is these ‘details’ which so often catch us unawares.

Whether walking through Christchurch Meadow, meandering along High Street or weaving one’s way beneath the evocative Bridge of Sighs towards Queen’s Lane, it is almost impossible to avoid being struck by a sudden, unexpected sense of wonder.

And not solely, it must be stressed, because of the city’s ‘dreaming spires’.

True enough, much architecturally of the University of Oxford is without peer, lending the city an extraordinary harmony.

But as any Oxonian will tell you, there is far, far more to Oxford than just fancy colonnades, cornices, porticos and plinths (no matter how commonplace they may be).

Because Oxford is also extraordinary, thanks to its people.

Whether young, bright, idealistic students enjoying their salad days, to workers putting in their 9-to-5 in Cowley, the city manages to embrace all individuals, lifestyles and faiths.

While many tomes have, over the years, boasted of capturing the city’s unique pictorial signature, this particular volume is different.

For not only is it an important historical record of how the city, architecturally, used to look, but also how we, as a community, used to live.

But that’s not all.

The people who captured these images were a different breed too.

Newspaper photographers, like all photographers, want to ‘steal’ the best shot, in terms of light, shade, clarity and composition.

But what sets them so strikingly apart is their ability to marry this art with the skill of a seasoned storyteller.

For instance, snapshots of the rich and famous visiting the city, from Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor to John, Paul, George and Ringo (The Beatles, in case you were wondering), capture perfectly both a portrait and a mood.

And as all these photographs have been dusted off and presented fresh from the huge picture library of the Oxford Mail, this collection represents not so much a ‘book’ as a tantalising historical document.

Consequently, you as the reader can not only look forward to turning over page after page of crisp and evocative memories, but page after page of stories too.

Of hopes, dreams and celebrations, exercised both candidly and formally, as well as ho-hum, so-so, day-to-day minutiae of lives.

Here is what Oxford was, and here is what Oxford always has been.

Sobering isn’t it – and thrilling too – to think that as you gaze at these photographs, assimilating the sentiment of every image, someone in the not-too-distant-future will do the same, and speculate, as you inevitably will, on how life, and the city, could have changed so much...

* Images of Oxford costs £12.99 and can be bought either direct from the Oxford Mail at Osney Mead, or online for £12.99 plus £3 P&P at oxfordimages