The Madman’s Library: The Strangest Books, Manuscripts and Other Literary Curiosities from History

Chronicle. Apr. 2021. 256p. ISBN 9781797207308. $29.95. REF
In this lavishly illustrated volume, book lover and collector Brooke-Hitching (The Phantom Atlas) takes readers on a magical tour of eccentric, beautiful books, both the well-known and the unfamiliar. Ten chapters, each arranged more or less chronologically, cover types of literary curiosity: “Books That Aren’t Books,” “Cryptic Books,” “Literary Hoaxes,” “Curious Collections,” “Books Made of Flesh and Blood,” “Works of the Supernatural,” “Religious Oddities,” “Curiosities of Science,” “Books of Spectacular Size” (large and small), and “Strange Titles.” Readers will learn about the Klencke Atlas, a work six feet tall and seven feet wide when open, made for Charles II; titles bound in fish skin, feather fragments, and human skin; and a diary etched into the back of a violin by a U.S. Civil War soldier.
VERDICT A feast (if not always palatable) for bibliophiles.
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