When we read, we usually do not pay much attention to the vehicle that brings us the stories or facts we absorb. These books about books tell us more about how some of our favorite titles came to be published, why they have remained popular, and even how they are constructed.
“A History of Children’s Books in 100 Books” by Roderick Cave and Sara Ayad starts with stories shared orally and progresses to board books and comics. Full of book covers and illustrations, you also will learn about the societal influences on what was written and published, such as the influence of the World Wars on children’s books. This would be a fun book to leaf through the next time several generations are gathered together: many titles will be recognized by all ages.
Another beautifully illustrated title is “Remarkable Books: The World’s Most Beautiful and Historic Works” from DK Publishing. It is arranged chronologically, from 3000 BC to the 20th century, and gathers works known for their physical beauty and cultural or historical significance. Learn more about the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Domesday Book, Audubon’s “Birds of America,” and Penguin’s first 10 paperback books.
You do not have to be a graphic designer to enjoy “Type is Beautiful: The Story of Fifty Remarkable Fonts” by Simon Loxley. Anyone using word processing software has seen the many fonts available; this book will give you the background of some of the most important. The earliest example included is the type in Gutenberg’s Bible; Comic Sans is a more recent development, with Baskerville, Braille, Times New Roman, and Helvetica in between. You’ve seen the recent reproductions of the “Keep Calm Carry On” posters? That’s Gill Sans — read more about it.
Are you inspired now to create your own book? “Making Books: A Guide to Creating Handcrafted Books” from the London Centre for Book Arts has step-by-step instructions on how to do it. Each step is illustrated with photographs or drawings and simple text. Tools of the trade, how to fold and cut paper, and stitching a binding all are covered.
If you take a look at these titles, the next time you pick up a book to read, you can also consider and appreciate the object itself. Find more books about books at the Iowa City Public Library.
l Heidi Lauritzen is switchboard manager at the Iowa City Public Library.