New display celebrates books as works of art
Some of the most beautiful books ever produced are on display at the National Library of Scotland in a celebration of the book as a work of art. ['The book beautiful'].
The Book Beautiful treasures display which opens today (26 November) features texts from the earliest days of print in the 15th and 16th centuries and explores their influence on small private presses active over the last 120 years. It is a rare opportunity to see the skill of book making elevated to dazzling levels.
One special pairing is at the heart of the display: the 1545 edition of Francesco Colonna's 'La hypnerotomachia di Poliphilo' and William Morris's 1896 edition of the 'Works of Geoffrey Chaucer', a joint display of what are, arguably, the two most beautiful books ever printed.
Rare Books curator James Mitchell who has selected the books for the display said: 'By conceiving the book as a unified whole in which format, page design, type, illustration, binding and paper all work together harmoniously, the people who worked with private presses designed books which were to be read slowly, appreciated and treasured. At their best, they produced works which transcended their medium to become works of art.'
The display includes the earliest printed book in the National Library's collection that features engravings of biblical scenes, the 'Biblia pauperum', printed in the Netherlands around 1460. This is paired with the last great private press book of the 20th century, the Pennyroyal Caxton Press Bible, printed in the United States. This also features a series of exquisite biblical engravings which took the artist, Barry Moser, four years to complete.
There are a total of ten books in the display with an equal mixture of early texts, paired with those from the 19th and 20th centuries. 'These are all books that have been carefully planned, meticulously designed and handcrafted with precise detailing applied to all aspects of the printing process,' said James. 'Some are masterpieces of design and the product of years of painstaking attention to detail. They are no less than some of the most beautiful books that man has ever made.'
The Book Beautiful display is at the National Library of Scotland, George IV Bridge, Edinburgh from 26 November 2015 until 13 March 2016. Entry is free.
See also related news story
26 November 2015