Can a book be sexy? I guess that all depends upon perspective. To be clear, I’m not talking about the intellectual content of the book, but the visual or tactile appeal of it. I feel this way about CDs & LPs sometimes, but I can’t recall having frequently found books sexy until I began working with rare books.
While the “art of the book” is not dead, it’s definitely ailing. In this new clime where e-books are slithering into our daily realities, it doesn’t make a lot of fiscal sense to put loads of money into producing beautifully bound books on expensive papers. Not to say there are no sexy books being produced anymore, just not many. It makes sense to look a little further back for that book with genuine sex appeal. I offer my case in point:
The above book is bound in smooth tortoiseshell- likely with no boards, just the tortoiseshell. It’s covered in intricate, curvaceous brasswork, very un-sexily referred to as “furniture”. The brasswork covers the front and back before extending into a pair of clasps that hold the book closed. The paper is near-pristine for its age (and was made from rag) and glows with gilted edges.
Why so much work on a single book? The text of the book is from the 1517, but the binding is probably from the 1700’s. At that time, books were for the wealthy. Most books were sold unbound (as leaves) prior to the 1800’s and it was up to the buyer to have the book bound. This tells us that the owner of the book at the time of the binding was quite wealthy.
I haven’t shown you an image of the entire book, just a little taste. Consider this post the teaser for our next exhibit in the Special Collections, “In Rare Form: Seven Centuries of the Printed Word” that will be opening next week. You must come by to appreciate the beauty of this book, as well as a couple dozen more rarities from our collection (more details soon).Do you have an opinion on the sexiness (or lack thereof) of books? Got one you wanna share with us? Post a comment (with pics if you’ve got them).