I’ve highlighted some book covers recently that I thought were interesting, but the innards of books are of even greater importance. I’m not talking narrative content, which is an aspect better reserved for the weekly reviews, but illustrations. Photographs, color plates, reproductions of paintings, all of these can enhance our enjoyment and understanding of a book. Here are a few items that appeal to me (click images to enlarge).
I had no earthly use for this book, but I’ve always been a sucker for maps and this one is practically nothing but. This is the 1908 Everyman’s edition of Atlas of the Ancient and Classical World, consisting of numerous fold-outs of maps ranging from biblical times to the Dark Ages.
We all like dinosaurs, right? Or at least we do when we’re kids. When I was nearing my eighth birthday I saw the Spring Books publication, Prehistoric Animals in a book store and pleaded with my mother to make that my birthday present. It was expensive (twenty dollars!), and my mom tried to deflect me to something cheaper, but she finally knuckled under and got me this one. I literally wore the cover off the book from continual reading over the next few years, and once I became a gainfully-employed adult I had the book rebound in leather (at several times the original price); I still peruse it from time to time. The book includes sixty plates, many in full color. Some were prepared specifically for this book, others are gorgeous reproductions of the classic illustrations of Zdeňek Burian (the text – which assumes a level of paleontological knowledge on the part of the reader which was certainly beyond my tender years – is by Dr. Joseph Augusta). The picture below portrays a Tyrannosaurus confronting two unfortunate duck-billed dinosaurs (I confess that I always hoped that the poor fellows dove into the creek and got away).
A Gap in Nature: Discovering the World’s Extinct Animals was authored by…well, by Tim Flannery, an Australian paleontologist who is also one of the more prominent chicken-littles of the global warming cult; however, in this book he sticks to the facts, and, in any event, it is the wonderful illustrations of Peter Schouten that I wish to point out, since this is as close as we’re likely to get to having an idea of what these creatures looked like. Pictured below is the Choiseul Crested-pigeon, late of the Solomon Islands (and probably wiped out by cats, which were introduced sometime in the early 20th century).
The Escorial, published by Newsweek Books as part of its “Wonders of Man” series, includes a photograph of the library in that famous palace, built by His Most Catholic Majesty, Philip II. I’ve always fancied having a library that looked like this one (if I had the space and money).