It would be difficult enough selecting 100 books just in Britain to represent the history of the book from scrolls to codices, to manuscripts to printed books to e-books. And then there’s what’s in the books – fiction, scientific books, company reports, instruction manuals, religious books – and what religions? – Christian (Gutenberg Bible completed in the mid-1450s on the right), Muslim, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism etc – so authors Roderick Cave and Sara Ayad really did have a task on their hands when they took on all the books of the world!
Starting with cave paintings, this book is divided into 11 sections and ends with digitisation and the future of the book, having taken in mediæval books, books from the East, printed books and printing and the great classics along the way. Atlases are included, such as this of Ptolemy’s world map from the Cosmographia of 1482, and describes all the known world. As he was based in Alexandria the most detail is around the Mediterranean, and the southern hemisphere is lacking a bit!
Science books are not left out, and Euclid’s Elementa Geometriæ, was translated from Arabic into Latin by Abelard of Bath in the 12th century. The printed version by Erhard Ratdolt, on the right, was made in Venice in 1482, and, amazingly at this early date in printing history, there are printed geometric diagrams.
And pornography is not new either! In 1668 Samuel Pepys burned a book (another copy on the right) that he had bought for his wife to translate from the French. L’eschole des filles was a dialogue between a young virgin and a more experienced female cousin. Pepys made sure that he read it before burning (hmm! even missing church to do so); he described it as ‘the most bawdy, lewd book that I ever saw’.
The History of the Book in 100 Books is comprehensive and has details of a very wide range of selected books (including Playfair’s Commercial and Political Atlas on the right). There is also an extensive bibliography for those who want to read more, and a detailed glossary. Each opening spread has a very useful ‘Connections’ section so that it’s possible to look at other related books. If you’re stuck for a gift for the person who has everything, then this could well be the answer!