The Smithsonian Book of Books
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.

The Smithsonian Book of Books Details

TitleThe Smithsonian Book of Books
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseSep 17th, 2003
PublisherSmithsonian Books
ISBN-139780895990303
Rating
GenreWriting, Books About Books, Nonfiction, History, Art, Reference, Historical, Humanities, Language, Academic, School

The Smithsonian Book of Books Review

  • Marsha
    January 1, 1970
    When I saw this in the library catalog, I felt it had "my name on it". This beautifully illustrated and documented history of the written word was informative, interesting and sometimes amazing. It reminded me in its style and presentation of the many books put out by DK Publishing of mostly illustrated volumes on a variety of non fiction subjects with an emphasis on collection rather than depth.This huge book is definitely worth spending some time browsing through for any bibliophile interested When I saw this in the library catalog, I felt it had "my name on it". This beautifully illustrated and documented history of the written word was informative, interesting and sometimes amazing. It reminded me in its style and presentation of the many books put out by DK Publishing of mostly illustrated volumes on a variety of non fiction subjects with an emphasis on collection rather than depth.This huge book is definitely worth spending some time browsing through for any bibliophile interested in the mechanics, politics and process of book making and printing over the centuries.
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  • Lora
    January 1, 1970
    This is a great coffee table book. There are full page and two page color spreads of books in all their glory. The chapters vary from a chapter on the Bible, a chapter on the Koran, a chapter on children's lit, one on fonts and bookbinding, lots about Shakespeare, Murray and the OED, and The Book of Kells. Great wry humor crops up in places, these people really enjoyed putting this book together. Loved this book beginning to end. The first pass through I only inhaled the pictures. Second pass th This is a great coffee table book. There are full page and two page color spreads of books in all their glory. The chapters vary from a chapter on the Bible, a chapter on the Koran, a chapter on children's lit, one on fonts and bookbinding, lots about Shakespeare, Murray and the OED, and The Book of Kells. Great wry humor crops up in places, these people really enjoyed putting this book together. Loved this book beginning to end. The first pass through I only inhaled the pictures. Second pass through, I read a chapter here or there, or a section that caught my eye. My next pass through this book has been hard to explain: Sort of soaking it up in erratic patterns of scanning, reading, or re-reading. Sometimes just carrying it over and showing a picture to a family member and then reading aloud the passage that accompanies it. It's a great book.
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  • Tim Grasso
    January 1, 1970
    I was given this book as a Christmas present and thought it was beautiful, but waited several months before reading it. I am tempted to give it 3 stars because Basbanes' "Gentle Madness" covers a lot of the same ground with more detail, but they are rather different books with different goals. Don't get me wrong, the "book of books" is great book for bibliophiles, but I feel like its sumptuous illustration and size makes it better suited as a coffee table book to be browsed through upon occasion I was given this book as a Christmas present and thought it was beautiful, but waited several months before reading it. I am tempted to give it 3 stars because Basbanes' "Gentle Madness" covers a lot of the same ground with more detail, but they are rather different books with different goals. Don't get me wrong, the "book of books" is great book for bibliophiles, but I feel like its sumptuous illustration and size makes it better suited as a coffee table book to be browsed through upon occasion than to be read from cover to cover. I found that the writing was a bit trite at times, and rather overstated at others, but several chapters were both immensely interesting and informative. Despite its unevenness at times, I still think it was a worthwhile read.I particularly enjoyed the chapter on typography as I have had a hard time understanding its significance within the world of print history. The chapter does a good job of showing its valuable contribution to the arts of the book. Other highlights included chapters on Islamic calligraphy and books, Medieval illumination, and Shakespeare's printing history. I also appreciated more detailed chapters on Gutenberg's print process, the incunabula printers Caxton and Aldus, and the art of book binding. In short, if you are interested in the history of books, book collections, libraries, printing, and the various book arts, or how these things have impacted the course of history, science, and society, this is not a bad book to own. You can certainly find more detailed books on all of these subjects, but this book serves as a great introduction and its beautiful illustrations both provide helpful examples and stimulate further interest and love for books. (You can't go wrong with illuminations from "The Lindisfarne Gospels!")
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  • Charlotte Holmans
    January 1, 1970
    A wonderful book about books, their history, everything!
  • Caitlin Marineau
    January 1, 1970
    The text is a good and fairly quick overview of the history of books and printing. The author also examines particular topics of interest to book lovers, including William Morris, Typography, and Children's books. Towards the end, when the author starts getting into new advancements in printing and electronic publishing, the book quickly becomes dated, but this section is quite short. There are probably more involved historical overviews of printing out there, but the main selling point for this The text is a good and fairly quick overview of the history of books and printing. The author also examines particular topics of interest to book lovers, including William Morris, Typography, and Children's books. Towards the end, when the author starts getting into new advancements in printing and electronic publishing, the book quickly becomes dated, but this section is quite short. There are probably more involved historical overviews of printing out there, but the main selling point for this book is by far the images. Every page has multiple full color images that bring the beauty of the book to life. For this reason alone it would make a lovely addition to a library or coffee table.
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  • Jess
    January 1, 1970
    Have you ever looked at a book and wonder how it got to be that shape or size. When one falls apart, do you wonder how they fix it, or used to? This beautiful book gives the how-to and the social history of books through the ages. Once you read it, you'll start to notice 'old and ancient practices and symbols' that are still part of books produced today.And may I just say, anyone that's read 'Inkheart' will want to read this. You know why.
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  • Elaine
    January 1, 1970
    This is my favorite book of all. I ABSOLUTELY! love this book and I can't say enough about the value its contents; in-depth knowledge of the history of books, magnificent full-color illustrations and a "new appreciation of the role of books in human society."Whether you're a writer or a reader, you would appreciate this book.
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  • Jeff
    January 1, 1970
    It takes a real book nerd to read an entire coffeetable book ... about books, but I'm guilty as charged. This was a fascinating exploration about the origin and advancement of books over the millennia, and the pleasure and knowledge they have afforded humanity. Like any good coffeetable book, the images and photos were as scintillating and informative as the text. I especially enjoyed the chapter on the emergence of children's literature, from pre-Mother Goose to post-Dr. Seuss. This book was a It takes a real book nerd to read an entire coffeetable book ... about books, but I'm guilty as charged. This was a fascinating exploration about the origin and advancement of books over the millennia, and the pleasure and knowledge they have afforded humanity. Like any good coffeetable book, the images and photos were as scintillating and informative as the text. I especially enjoyed the chapter on the emergence of children's literature, from pre-Mother Goose to post-Dr. Seuss. This book was a gift from my in-laws, who know my interests well.
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  • Dee
    January 1, 1970
    A beautiful and interesting book for anyone interested in the history of books and book- making
  • Cate
    January 1, 1970
    If, as a Bibliophile, you’ve ever wondered about the process that goes into a book and I’m not just talking about the writing and imagination of Authors, then this is the book for you; and if you’ve ever read ‘Inkheart’ then this is definitely something you will want to open.Although it is relatively short given how long the printed word has been in existence, this is more than made up for by the beautiful illustrations that adorn its pages and the explanation of evolution of books which covers If, as a Bibliophile, you’ve ever wondered about the process that goes into a book and I’m not just talking about the writing and imagination of Authors, then this is the book for you; and if you’ve ever read ‘Inkheart’ then this is definitely something you will want to open.Although it is relatively short given how long the printed word has been in existence, this is more than made up for by the beautiful illustrations that adorn its pages and the explanation of evolution of books which covers topics such as their purpose, how they are produced and also their appearance. Although primarily covering the history of books throughout Europe there is also some text given over to the Middle and Far East, plus a little bit of the United States too. Particular attention is given over to William Morris and Children’s books and an interesting section on typography, some of which the reader can still see in use in the books of today. Admittedly, toward the end, the Author does mention advancements in electronic publishing and printing which, given the fact this book was published in 2003 (first print being 1992), and this section struck me as not only outdated given the time lapsed, but also rather dry and out of odds with the rest of the book.The writing is crisp, clear and concise without it ever becoming text book dry thankfully, but to be quite honest the writing does take a back seat to those wonderful photographs and images I previously mentioned; so if you are not interested in reading about the history of books, it is worth picking up just to see everything. Based on the images alone it would make a great addition to any library or coffee table.I would highly recommend this book to any and all bibliophiles, grab a glass of your favourite chilled beverage, sit back and enjoy this.Originally reviewed on: http://catesbooknuthut.com/2014/08/20... This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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  • Kate
    January 1, 1970
    The most striking thing about this book is the absolutely gorgeous illustrations of various books through the ages. The text takes the reader through the development of the book, from papyrus scrolls copied out by scribes in ancient Egypt, the revolution of the printing press, up to a prediction of the future formats of reading (which are a bit hilariously outdated at this point — I don't see anyone walking around with an e-reader that uses CD-ROMs — though Olmert does correctly predict the incr The most striking thing about this book is the absolutely gorgeous illustrations of various books through the ages. The text takes the reader through the development of the book, from papyrus scrolls copied out by scribes in ancient Egypt, the revolution of the printing press, up to a prediction of the future formats of reading (which are a bit hilariously outdated at this point — I don't see anyone walking around with an e-reader that uses CD-ROMs — though Olmert does correctly predict the increased importance of on-demand publishing). There are several chapters devoted to the craft of bookmaking: how type is designed and set, how paper is made, how folios and quartos are folded, and the arts of bookbinding and illustration.I did find some of the prose to be a bit choppy and brief; for example, there is hardly a paragraph on the differences among different types of printing (letterpress, intaglio, etc.) and some of the more technical aspects of bookmaking would have been more interesting if there was more detail. Some of this was made up for by great pictures; I think the illustrations are really the highlight of this book, and it is worth reading just to get more enjoyment and understanding out of the many, many photographs and other illustrations.
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  • MsChris
    January 1, 1970
    This is a beautiful book that has been sitting on my bookcase for several years. I'm pretty sure I picked it up at a local thrift store. It's a gorgeous book full of illustrations that will make you stop and just stare at the page for several minutes. The illustrations were probably the best part of this book, though the writing was also good. It gives a brief history on books including typography and book binding. I was hoping it would talk more about books, and while it did talk about individu This is a beautiful book that has been sitting on my bookcase for several years. I'm pretty sure I picked it up at a local thrift store. It's a gorgeous book full of illustrations that will make you stop and just stare at the page for several minutes. The illustrations were probably the best part of this book, though the writing was also good. It gives a brief history on books including typography and book binding. I was hoping it would talk more about books, and while it did talk about individual books some, it stock to more overarching themes. Overall a worthwhile book.On a fun side note, this book was published in the early 1990s, which is fine it's a book about history that hasn't changed, however, at the end of the book it talks about how e-books are beginning to emerge on cd-rom and how that's not really a probably because no one is going to read a book on a digital device but rather they just use it for a reference. I had to chuckle a little. How wrong that predication turned out to be.https://www.facebook.com/BlackCatBibl...
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  • Patrick Sifuentes
    January 1, 1970
    Beautiful, insightful, colorful, educational, historical AND ... a really fun read. This was a textbook for an MLIS course Preservation and Conservation. When I took the book to the library to show some of my colleagues two of them went to Amazon and made their purchase that very same day. This is a Great book!PS
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  • Michele Beacham
    January 1, 1970
    Read this as a remedy for never having taken a History of the Book class in graduate school. It's generally very interesting, although I found the sections on printing a bit technical and dry. The illustrations are beautiful.
  • Brackman1066
    January 1, 1970
    A thorough and very well-written overview of bookmaking history, as well as some exploration of "Books that Changed the World" and other interesting topics. An excellent introduction to the subject.
  • Anca Maria
    January 1, 1970
    I like the book.
  • Katie
    January 1, 1970
    I thought that this book was a really interesting introduction to book making and the history of books. There were also many beautiful pictures.
  • Colleen
    January 1, 1970
    I had to read this for a History of Books class and it was actually quite interesting. Really does explore the whole process of bookmaking from ancient times on upward with great pictures throughout.
  • Karen
    January 1, 1970
    Found a used copy at Powell's, thank goodness. I haven't read enough of it to judge the writing. It looks lovely.
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