Edited by Mathieu Lommen
Thames & Hudson, $65.00, 464 pages
The Book of Books: 500 Years of Graphic Innovation includes a sampling of books printed between 1471 and 2010 and focuses on the printers and engravers that transformed the written word into an art form. It also tracks the development of fonts. These books, illustrating historic typography, are part of the Special Collections division at Amsterdam University Library. The editor, Curator Mathieu Lommen, has carefully and painstakingly made his way through books including the Gutenberg Bible and digital work from the modern era. He uses rare books from the library’s collection.
“For many years it was printers who set the trends; the profession of graphic designer emerged only gradually at the beginning of the twentieth century.”
The enormity of the book makes it suited for libraries and museums rather than the casual collector. The reproductions are magnificent and the overall quality is superb. Anyone who works in graphic design will feel humbled and inspired by the creativity and uniqueness of the examples, most of which were published before computers. Each chapter focuses on a new book and printer. Most of the excerpts are by Italian, German, French and Dutch publishers which allows for an extraordinary glimpse into antiquarian books most of us would never see otherwise. Unfortunately, there is very little information about the actual process of printing and even less about book manufacturing.
Reviewed by Sheli Ellsworth