Review: The Smithsonian Book of Books ~ Michael Olmert

The Smithsonian Book of BooksThrough 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.

4 Thumbs-UpIf, as a Bibliophile, you have 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 the evolution of books.  This 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 paid to William Morris and Children’s books and there is also 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and printing which, given the fact this book was published in 2003 (first print being 1992), struck me as not only outdated given the time lapsed, but also rather out of odds with the rest of the book.  Despite this, contained within this books covers is something highly educational and fun.

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.

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