Bookmen's Bedlam


by Walter Hart Blumenthal

Rutgers University Press, 1955, New Brunswick, New Jersey. Hardcover in dust jacket. Black boards with gold lettering on red spine. 273 pages. Okay, let's face it. There are literally thousands of "books on books." All I can say is that this is one of the best I've ever read. It deals with "book collecting oddities" and points out the great lengths people will go to in order to create and possess the unusual. Each book Blumenthal talks about is well documented, pointing out where the book resides, which collection or library or museum ... or where it's presumed to be: in one case, a priceless jewel-encrusted volume being moved from England to a museum in America is still assumed to be in the vault of the Titanic.

The most valuable, the oldest, the largest, the craziest. Books so large that special gargantuan machines had to be designed and built to simply turn their pages; so small that you can fit two dozen printed, leather covered volumes in a thimble. Books supposedly penned by ghosts, books of odd shapes, books that do things ("pop-up" books from the 16th century, etc). One whole chapter deals solely with books bound in human skin.

Most individual books are discussed in a single paragraph, but others were obviously the author's favorites. He spends two full pages discussing Audubon's The Birds of America, a three volume set of engravings done in actual-size, so that the books' dimensions had to be based on those of a full-grown American Turkey (the books measure 39" X 29").

Other books in the BookScans Reference Library are just that: books you will refer to often for reference. If you buy this book, I can guarantee you ... you will READ it!

 Tremendously entertaining. Most highly recommended.