Saturday, 9 October 2010


The world's biggest printed book was unveiled at the Frankfurt Book Fair last week.

An atlas, it beats the previous size-record held by – an atlas. That previous one – the Klencke Atlas – was from 350 years ago, though. At that time I imagine atlases were at the forefront of new publishing ideas. So, as digital devices threaten traditional publishing, I find it a slight shame that an atlas should again be the subject of the biggest book. To celebrate print on this scale, in this era, it would have been nice to feature something also "contemporary". An atlas of the stars, at least, or a book of the cosmos. Perhaps the world's biggest book on the quantum and atomic or the microscopic world. Portraits, or any details we don't normally see so large. There's too many possibilities to list seriously here.

I like the idea of promoting print at the very book fair that, as I linked this week, is being held in the shadow (or light) of fundamental change to the digital, but it does seem a shame that the second time a book should be printed at this scale the publishers choose the same topic as the first, several centuries before.

The 1350 Klencke Atlas on display at the British Museum – 30 cm smaller than the new book. (Claims to other size-record claims and what constitutes a book, can be sorted out by others!)

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