Perfect publishing

the book of books: 500 years of graphic innovation, edited by Mathieu Lommen, is published in the UK by Thames & Hudson. It’s a large format book illustrating the history of Western printed book design.

The myriad books that are featured come from the Special Collections of the University of Amsterdam, which are evidently outstandingly rich. They include: 

reference works and works of art, ‘machines for reading’ and picture books, prestigious collector’s items and throwaway paperbacks. [The book] includes work by famous printers of the hand-press period – Nicolas Jenson, Aldus Manutius, Christoffel Plantin, the Elzeviers, John Baskerville, Giambattista Bodoni – and trendsetting designers of the modern era – William Morris, El Lissitzky, Jan Tschichold, Paul Rand, Massin, Irma Boom. It also includes remarkable illustrated works by architects and artists such as Giovanni Battista Piranesi and Maria Sibylla Merian. Special attention is devoted to printers’ manuals, illuminating the printing process, and also to type specimens and writing masters’ copybooks, placing letterforms in a broader context.

the book of books is itself beautifully designed and produced. The text is concise and informative; the illustrations are handsome. That such a beautiful piece of publishing can be marketed at a RRP of only £42 is astonishing.

A present for Christmas 2012, this book has been instantly installed as my favorite amongst all the books that I own. Part of the pleasure of reading through such a book is the challenge of selecting one’s own favorites from the books featured. Here is my intuitively selected, utterly subjective, top ten:

  • 1509 Luca Pacioli, Divina proportione
  • 1538 Robert Estiene, Biblia
  • 1565 Christoffel Plantin, Hadrianus Junius, Emblemata
  • 1569: Christoffel Plantin, Biblia sacra Hebraice, Chaldaice, Graece, & latine
  • 1627 Paulus Aertsz van Ravesteyn, Amsterdamsche Pegasus
  • 1797 Thomas Bewick, History of British Birds
  • 1929 Count Harry Kessler& Edward Gordon Craig, Die tragische Geschicte von Hamlet Prinzen von Danemark
  • 1931 Eric Gill, An essay on typography
  • 1949 Jan Tschicholdm, Kate O’Brien, Without My Cloak
  • 2000 Derek Birdsall, Common Worship.

And yours?


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