Once you have been bitten by a book worm, there is no cure. You are forever addicted to The Book, that container of the written word and window to Other Worlds. At the risk of sounding trite though, I really only like books with lots of pictures, particularly hand drawn or etched pictures. My apologies to my photographer colleagues. My true favorites are books about the natural world. I love out of date natural history. In fact, the older and more inaccurate a book is, especially if highly illustrated, the more I love it. I am particularly fond of illustrations where it is clear that the artist did not see the specimen first hand, in other words the picture is by a guy, who knew a guy who saw the animal Or the artist did not have the opportunity to see the animal very well or very long; as in the case of Albrecht Durer's ill-fated, re-gifted, Rhinoceros.
(for more on that story visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D%C3%BCrer%27s_Rhinoceros)
However, there are those books that are simply beautiful. And as a devotee of botanical art, it is difficult to beat botanical guides! Last week I attended a tour of the Rare Book Collection at the Smithsonian's Natural History Museum in Washington, DC. I visited this collection with my colleagues in the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators. During this visit I learned a great deal about the construction and history of the book and of printing. Much of what I learned summarized in the photo below from my sketchbook. It was a day of superlatives:
The Oldest Book: P.A. Mattioli's Senensis Medici, from 1529 with amazing woodcuts
The Most Exciting Brush with Greatness: A tie between Maria Sibylla Meriam's (one of the great illustrators and first woman) Metamorphosis insectorum surinamensium dated 1647 and Pierre Paul Redoute's Jardin de la Malmaisson dated 1803.
Most Interesting: J.J. Rousseau (of French Philosophy fame) La Botanique, 1805
Most Beautiful: Mrs. E Bury’s Selection of Plants from the late 19th century.