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In the world of books, small is beautiful, but large is also impressive. Kimberley Chen casts an appreciative eye over some of the largest, smallest, most exhaustive or streamlined tomes available, from bookshop favourites to record breakers.
Lovely and large books
The world’s biggest atlas, The Klencke Atlas
The 1660 atlas was presented to Charles II on his restoration to the British throne by Amsterdam merchant Johannes Klencke. The gigantic book measures 1.78m (5ft 10in) high by 1.05m wide (3ft 5in), and requires six people to lift the hefty tome. More than 30 printed wall maps are encased in a beautiful, decorative binding. The awe-inspiring atlas was Klencke’s way of bribing for the king’s favour, and Charles II was indeed mightily pleased with the gift, since he kept the item alongside his other well-loved possessions at Whitehall Palace. Last year’s British Library exhibition, Magnificent maps: Power, Propaganda and Art, was the first time the atlas had been displayed in public with its spectacular pages spread open.
Possibly the world’s heaviest cookbook – Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking by Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young and Maxime Bilet, published by The Cooking Lab
It’s the cookbook which has got major, Michelin starred chefs greatly excited, such as Daniel Boulud and Sat Bains. The six volume cookery bible features 2438 pages and weighs more than 18kg. It is an encyclopedia of the laboratory style of cooking embraced by quirky chefs like Heston Blumenthal and Ferran Adrià, as well as an assortment of 1500 recipes. The detailed guide explains various gels, emulsions and foams; cooking techniques like sous vide, and a range of equipment, such as test tubes. It took three authors and a 20-something team in an 18000-square-foot warehouse, over three years to produce the mammoth book. The giant tome is also a feast for the eyes, an explosion of colour and gorgeous photography, examples include glistening clusters of orange bubbles in some foam and the superb sheen of a lobster roasted over a fire.
The Norton Anthology of Poetry edited by Margaret Ferguson, Mary Jo Salter and Jon Stallworthy, fifth edition (W.W Norton)
The blurb promises that ‘No other poetry anthology offers such abundance’ and it is certainly teeming with an enormous wealth of literary information: 1828 poems, 334 poets, plus biographical sketches and essays on versification and syntax. The poems cover the medieval period right up until present day. Celebrate the humour of Geoffrey Chaucer as the pilgrims embark on their journey to Canterbury, feel the powerful sense of grief in Thomas Hardy’s The Voice and find immense delight in a wide selection of other brilliant poetry in this wonderfully colossal anthology.
Small and special books
Penguin Mini Modern Classics series
Penguin’s preview film defines the word ‘small’ as potent, refined, elegant, moreish, exciting… and this is precisely what the Mini Modern Classics series showcases. Penguin has decided to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Penguin Modern Classics by publishing 50 Penguin Mini Modern Classics all dressed up in sophisticated, silver covers. Get a quick dosage of the finest short fiction from top writers including Jean Rhys, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Angela Carter.
Irma Boom: Biography in Books designed by Irma Boom (Grafsiche Cultuurstichting)
Irma Boom’s 5cm high book is an extremely condensed overview of her work as a designer. The tiny biography is about the same size as a small box of matchsticks. Its 704 pages contain 450 colourful illustrations, text by Mathieu Lommen and notes by Boom herself. The book may not be very tall, but it is certainly captivating as its pages are clad in a vivid, bold, red cover. Boom thoroughly enjoys making little models of all her books, as the process helps her to filter her ideas. The biographical piece was designed to coincide with the retrospective exhibition of her work at the Special Collections of the University of Amsterdam Library. This mini treasure can be seen at the Brit Insurance Designs of the Year exhibition at the Design Museum until 7 August.
The Smallest Book in the World by Josua Reichert (Die Gestalten Verlag)
You’ll need tweezers to turn the pages and a magnifying glass to read this tiny gem. The leather-bound, ABC picture book’s measurements are 2.4mm x 2.6mm. It contains 24 brightly coloured pages designed by the German typographer, Josua Reichert. This is a terrific specimen of meticulous attention to detail and absolute precision in the art of printing and bookbinding.