Smithsonian Book of Books / Edition 1

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In excellent shape! Includes the ex-libris sticker that came with book and it's sturdy case. Also included is a write-up on the book itself from the Los Angeles Times 1987. This ... offer is certainly a real treat! Read more Show Less

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Through more than 300 glorious illustrations from library collections around the globe, you'll discover a wealth of book lore in these pages and gain a new appreciation for the role of books in human society, from our earliest attempts at writing and recording information to the newest electronic books; from sumptuous illuminated and bejeweled medieval manuscripts to Gutenberg and the invention of movable type; from the diverse arts and crafts of bookmaking to the building of magnificent libraries for housing treasured volumes; from the ancient epic of Gilgamesh to the plays of Shakespeare and the tales of Beatrix Potter; and from the earliest illustrated books to revolutionary science texts.

Accompanied by more than 300 illustrations, most in full color, The Smithsonian Book of Books presents the history, the art, and the influence of books through all ages and cultures. Beginning with the ancient origins of writing, Olmert revisits great works of religion, science, and literature. 338 illustrations, 311 in color.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A feast for book lovers.”—Publishers Weekly

“Succeeds beautifully. Olmert’s lively text describes the evolution of the book and its impact on society. . . . Along the way, he surveys early forms of writing, the development of printing, and the arts of papermaking, typography, illustration, and bookbinding.”—Bloomsbury Review

“The ultimate thrill for readers: beautiful, copious illustrations, and text that leaves no page of book history unturned.”—Los Angeles Daily News
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This copiously illustrated celebration of books and the printed word crams a wealth of information into 320 pages studded with 311 color plates. With infectious enthusiasm and an easy conversational flow, Olmert, who teaches Shakespeare at the University of Maryland, traces the history and influence of books from ancient Egyptian papyrus scrolls through Chinese movable type to the modern book fair. Sections cover a great diversity of topics: the origins of writing, medieval ledger books, the Gutenberg revolution, the Bible, Islamic books, Shakespeare's relationship to printing, Mother Goose and children's books, William Morris, the first great dictionaries and encyclopedias, the earthshaking tomes of Copernicus and Darwin, modern printing methods, the publishing industry. Illustrations feature Mayan codices, Indian miniatures, the earliest known Beowulf manuscript, Durer, Raphael, Audubon, Thomas Hart Benton, Ben Shahn, Maurice Sendak. A feast for booklovers, this volume affirms the power of books to change the world and our lives. (Sept.)
Library Journal
There is a common misconception about books which look good on coffee tables that they must be intellectually deficient and lacking in content. That premise certainly doesn't hold true for this enjoyable publication. Its scope is broad, for it includes information not only on the history of books but also on the evolution of the printing industry, libraries, medieval illumination and modern illustration, the book trade including book fairs and bookstores, problems with bookworms genus Anobium , not avid readers, and methods of conservation. The illustrations, most of which are in color, are taken from such sources as Pompeian walls, papyrus scrolls, medieval parchment and vellum manuscripts, woodcuts, frescoes, and panel paintings. If the author errs, it is in trying to present too much information and in sometimes failing to define terms adequately. Nonetheless, this is a fine addition to any library and should appeal especially to book collectors, librarians, and--because of its many illustrations--art historians and picture researchers.-- Margarete Gross, Chicago P.L.
Donna Seaman
"There are probably more books than any other human artifact on earth." "People have died for their contents." "There is something grand and positive about the idea of a library." Welcome to a gorgeously illustrated and unabashedly glowing tribute to books as both vehicles for thought and objects of beauty. The nearly 350 illustrations in this well-designed volume are mostly in color, and range from reproductions of art depicting people of all cultures throughout history reading, writing, and making books, to photographs of the latest in computerized print technology. Olmert's anecdotal commentary offers a fluid overview of the evolution of writing from ancient cuneiform tablets to elegant medieval manuscripts and the earliest printed books. He examines the spiritual power of books in discussions of the Bible and the Koran, states categorically that there would be no science without books, and even praises double-entry bookkeeping for incorporating books into everyday life. In celebrating the aesthetics and craft of typography and bookmaking, Olmert acknowledges the immense effect printing has had on language and applauds the ongoing vitality of dictionaries, book illustration, children's books, and libraries. This is a book to grace every library.
Some 350 illustrations (most in lovely color) were carefully selected for the rarity and interest of the objects they portray or represent. They combine well with the text in a volume that both surveys and embodies the art and science of bookmaking, engendering respect and fascination for all aspects of books--their production, history, and power. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780895990303
  • Publisher: Smithsonian Institution Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/2003
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 9.20 (w) x 11.20 (h) x 0.95 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Olmert is the author of Milton's Teeth and Ovid's Umbrella. Christopher de Hamel is Donnelley Fellow Librarian, Corpus Christi College and former curator of Western and Oriental manuscripts at Sotheby's.
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Table of Contents

Introduction: Putting a Price on It 8
Prologue 18
Scrolls and Scribes 26
The Greatest Story Ever Told: From the Old Testament to the New 42
People of the Book 50
Illuminating the Dark Ages 68
From the Edge of Beyond: Medieval Glories of the British Isles 90
Debits and Credits: The Keeping of Accounts 102
The Gutenberg Revolution 112
Caxton and Aldus: Masters of the Press 124
A Brave New World: Printing in the Americas 132
"Yes, We Have Now Bananas" 140
Morison, Zapf and Gill: Modern Masters of Typography 154
The Bookmaker's Craft 162
To Print or Not To Print? For Shakespeare, That Was the Question 178
By Its Cover: The Art of the Binder 188
"The Infinite Library, Timeless and Incorruptible" 198
Heralds of Science: Books That Changed the World 214
The Best of the Past: A Medieval Revival in the Arts of the Book 224
A Picture's Worth 234
Mother Goose and Company: Books for the Young - and the Young at Heart 254
Every Woe for Everyman 266
The Book Business: "Ah, You Publishing Scoundrel!" 280
Old Leaves, New Lives: Lost and Found Between the Covers 288
Last Words 298
Acknowledgments 308
Index 310
Picture Credits 316
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de Hamel, Christopher
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