Just a few minutes ago I finished reading the 300 page letter sized The Smithsonian Book of Books by Michael Olmert. Awesome.
As you can guess, this book is about books, and it covers many aspects:
- From Scrolls and Scribes
- People of the book (about readers and writers)
- Illuminating the Dark Ages
- The Gutenberg Revolution
- Yes we now have bananas (about Typography with Zapf and Gills)
- The bookman’s craft (about printers and printing)
- The infinite Library. Timeless and Incorruptible ( about Science and revival of medieval book craft)
- A Picture’s worth… (about illustrations, woodcuts and artists)
- Every Word for Everyman (about the book business)
When I first saw this book in the library I was mainly attracted by the topic (about books!) and the many pictures. There are pictures of books, book making, printing, illustrations, and what pictures! Olmert shows many treasures of the Smithsonian and other institutions and museums, and Oh! so beautiful.
Fortunately the text proves to be interesting and easy to read. Olmert succeeds in writing entertaining enough to keep me reading 300 large pages. The book is stuffed with facts, but wrapped in little anecdotes. Out comes, what could be named a travel report through time and books, a book lover’s diary, a narrative written by a master of the language and still light and easy.
Some of my favorite pictures are the Arabic Initial on page 50, the girdle bible on page 70, to be wrapped and hung from the belt, the page of the ‘Book of Kells’ on page 93, the colored etching by William Blake and Catherine Sophia Boucher on page 242, Rockwell Kent’s Moby Dick on page 253 and many more.
I do a little bookbinding myself, and have enjoyed this wealth of information on all these topics related to books and book making.
And I it gave me the next topic I am going to read about: Typography. Sure, I have read a book or two on this, and having done some print jobs I learned a little about it, but this chapter made me curious.