The Book of Books: 500 Years of Graphic Innovation

Overview

A profusely illustrated visual history of the printed book, from bibles to children’s books to modern photography collections, that will delight and inform bibliophiles everywhere.
Since the fifteenth century, the printed book has been an essential carrier of information. And, for more than five hundred years, there have been designers, printers, and publishers who have extended the boundaries of their professions aesthetically and technically,...

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Overview

A profusely illustrated visual history of the printed book, from bibles to children’s books to modern photography collections, that will delight and inform bibliophiles everywhere.
Since the fifteenth century, the printed book has been an essential carrier of information. And, for more than five hundred years, there have been designers, printers, and publishers who have extended the boundaries of their professions aesthetically and technically, producing books that are masterpieces of graphic art.
This sumptuous collection tells the history of the printed book through milestone publications and little-known treasures of the art of the book. The noted originators range from Jenson and Bellaert in the fifteenth century through Piranesi, Bodoni, and Bewick to Morris, Gill, Tschichold, and Birdsall in the modern age. The featured publications include The Nuremberg Chronicle from 1493—a masterpiece of integrated text and illustration; Maria Sibylla Merian’s book of insects from 1719; Muybridge’s 1887 Animal Locomotion; a photomontage book by John Heartfield published in 1929; and a 1937 edition of The Frogs by Aristophanes, produced by the Limited Editions Club of New York.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review
…[an] impressive survey…Lommen presents each book at a generous size, either single- or double-page views, large enough for viewers to feel they are looking at the originals…For those who fear the demise of the printed word, The Book of Books is a testament to its endurance. For those who see books as lasting forever, here is a generous helping of past and present models for the future.
—Steven Heller
Publishers Weekly
Described in the introduction as a “visual history” of “Western book design,” this volume, edited by Lommen, a curator at the Special Collections department of the Amsterdam University Library, is actually a chronological exhibition of beautiful and innovative editions published between 1471 and 2010. Brief text accompanies each example, but neither the introduction nor the postscript provides an overview of printing, book design, or book production history. Also missing is a glossary. Even bibliophiles would appreciate definitions for punchcutter, roman, die, copperplate, or offset technique. But the book’s raison d’etre is its glorious reproductions, like a 1729 natural history book in which Mark Catesby created astonishing etchings of a blue bird, a crab, and a magnolia, among other species. By occasionally matching its illustrated works’ gutters with the gutter of this book, the publisher reproduces the effect of turning the pages of the original. It is a fun effect, and one suited to a book honoring book design. The specter of the e-book haunts any project related to print books, and this is no exception. However, the print book takes the day here. Illus. (Sept.)
The Virginia Quarterly Review
“A useful and . . . inspiring survey.”
Portland Book Review
“The reproductions are magnificent and the overall quality is superb. Anyone who works in graphic design will feel humbled and inspired by the creativity and uniqueness of the examples, most of which were published before computers.”
Library Journal
What bibliophile could resist a book about books? This wonderful volume, edited by Lommen (graphic design history, Univ. of Amsterdam Lib.), presents 125 choice examples of the art of book design and typography, all found in the special collection of the University of Amsterdam's library. Over the course of five centuries, the book has evolved from a rare object available only to the rich, to a commonplace and everyday item. Tracing that development, this volume begins with the iconic works of printers and type designers Aldo Manuzio and Nicolas Jenson and follows through into the contemporary world of architect Rem Koolhaas, a founder of Volume magazine, and designer Derek Birdsall. Concise, well written, and remarkably consistent, the entries each include a few paragraphs on the history and description of the featured work, a section discussing the typeface used and its history, and a number of elegantly produced photographs. VERDICT A tribute to the editorship of Lommen and to the scholarship of the staff involved, this book is a delight to the eye and mind of anyone with a passion for books. It should have a place on the shelves of book lovers the world over.—Paula Frosch. Metropolitan Museum of Art Lib., NY
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780500515914
  • Publisher: Thames & Hudson
  • Publication date: 9/7/2012
  • Pages: 464
  • Sales rank: 940,974
  • Product dimensions: 9.40 (w) x 12.80 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Mathieu Lommen has published several books on type and book design. He is a curator and teacher of graphic design history at the University of Amsterdam.

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