Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

National library displays 'world's most beautiful books'

Francesco Colonna's La Hypnerotomachia di Poliphilo Image copyright National Library of Scotland
Image caption Francesco Colonna's La Hypnerotomachia di Poliphilo

An exhibit displaying some of the "most beautiful books that man has ever made" has opened in Edinburgh.

Book Beautiful, at the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh, includes texts from the earliest days of print in the 15th and 16th centuries.

Curators said the collection shows how books can be more than things to read and become works of art.

The books include the 1545 edition of Francesco Colonna's La Hypnerotomachia di Poliphilo.

There is also William Morris's 1896 edition of The Works Of Geoffrey Chaucer.

Also on show is the earliest printed book in the National Library's collection, the Biblia pauperum, which features engravings of biblical scenes and was printed in the Netherlands around 1460.

Image copyright National Library of Scotland
Image caption The works of Geoffrey Chaucer

Alongside this is the last great private press book of the 20th century, the Pennyroyal Caxton Press Bible, printed in the United States.

It features a series of biblical engravings which took the artist, Barry Moser, four years to complete.

Rare books curator James Mitchell, who 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.

"These are all books that have been carefully planned, meticulously designed and hand crafted with precise detailing applied to all aspects of the printing process.

"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 open to the public, with free entry, until 13 March.

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