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

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This fascinating and bizarre collection compiles the most unusual, obscure books from the far reaches of the human imagination throughout history. From the author of the critically acclaimed bestsellers The Phantom Atlas and The Sky Atlas comes a unique and beautifully illustrated journey through the history of literature. The Madman's Library delves into its darkest territ This fascinating and bizarre collection compiles the most unusual, obscure books from the far reaches of the human imagination throughout history. From the author of the critically acclaimed bestsellers The Phantom Atlas and The Sky Atlas comes a unique and beautifully illustrated journey through the history of literature. The Madman's Library delves into its darkest territories to hunt down the oddest books and manuscripts ever written, uncovering the intriguing stories behind their creation. From the Qur'an written in the blood of Saddam Hussein, to the gorgeously decorated fifteenth-century lawsuit filed by the Devil against Jesus, to the most enormous book ever created, The Madman's Library features many long forgotten, eccentric, and extraordinary volumes gathered from around the world. Books written in blood and books that kill, books of the insane and books that hoaxed the globe, books invisible to the naked eye and books so long they could destroy the Universe, books worn into battle and books of code and cypher whose secrets remain undiscovered. Spell books, alchemist scrolls, wearable books, edible books, books to summon demons, books written by ghosts, and more all come together in the most curiously strange library imaginable. Featuring hundreds of remarkable images and packed with entertaining facts and stories to discover, The Madman's Library is a captivating compendium perfect for bibliophiles, literature enthusiasts, and collectors intrigued by bizarre oddities, obscure history, and the macabre. • MUST-HAVE FOR BOOKLOVERS: Anyone who appreciates a good read will love delving into this weird world of books and adding this collection to their own bookshelf. • DISCOVER SOMETHING TRULY UNIQUE: The Madman's Library will let you in on the secret and obscure histories of the strangest books ever made. • EXPERT AUTHOR: Edward Brooke-Hitching is the son of an antiquarian book dealer, a lifelong rare book collector, and a master of taking visual deep dives into unusual historical subjects, such as the maps of imaginary geography in The Phantom Atlas or ancient pathways through the stars in The Sky Atlas.


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This fascinating and bizarre collection compiles the most unusual, obscure books from the far reaches of the human imagination throughout history. From the author of the critically acclaimed bestsellers The Phantom Atlas and The Sky Atlas comes a unique and beautifully illustrated journey through the history of literature. The Madman's Library delves into its darkest territ This fascinating and bizarre collection compiles the most unusual, obscure books from the far reaches of the human imagination throughout history. From the author of the critically acclaimed bestsellers The Phantom Atlas and The Sky Atlas comes a unique and beautifully illustrated journey through the history of literature. The Madman's Library delves into its darkest territories to hunt down the oddest books and manuscripts ever written, uncovering the intriguing stories behind their creation. From the Qur'an written in the blood of Saddam Hussein, to the gorgeously decorated fifteenth-century lawsuit filed by the Devil against Jesus, to the most enormous book ever created, The Madman's Library features many long forgotten, eccentric, and extraordinary volumes gathered from around the world. Books written in blood and books that kill, books of the insane and books that hoaxed the globe, books invisible to the naked eye and books so long they could destroy the Universe, books worn into battle and books of code and cypher whose secrets remain undiscovered. Spell books, alchemist scrolls, wearable books, edible books, books to summon demons, books written by ghosts, and more all come together in the most curiously strange library imaginable. Featuring hundreds of remarkable images and packed with entertaining facts and stories to discover, The Madman's Library is a captivating compendium perfect for bibliophiles, literature enthusiasts, and collectors intrigued by bizarre oddities, obscure history, and the macabre. • MUST-HAVE FOR BOOKLOVERS: Anyone who appreciates a good read will love delving into this weird world of books and adding this collection to their own bookshelf. • DISCOVER SOMETHING TRULY UNIQUE: The Madman's Library will let you in on the secret and obscure histories of the strangest books ever made. • EXPERT AUTHOR: Edward Brooke-Hitching is the son of an antiquarian book dealer, a lifelong rare book collector, and a master of taking visual deep dives into unusual historical subjects, such as the maps of imaginary geography in The Phantom Atlas or ancient pathways through the stars in The Sky Atlas.

30 review for The Madman's Library: The Strangest Books, Manuscripts and Other Literary Curiosities from History

  1. 4 out of 5

    Claudia

    What a wonderful reading this has been! My last in this year and the most appropriate one, for what better choice for a booklover than to read about some book oddities? It's a marvelous collection of fascinating things and facts, divided into thematic chapters: books that aren’t books, books made of flesh and blood, cryptic books, literary hoaxes, curious collections, works of the supernatural, religious oddities, curiosities of science, books of spectacular sizes and strange titles. Some I knew What a wonderful reading this has been! My last in this year and the most appropriate one, for what better choice for a booklover than to read about some book oddities? It's a marvelous collection of fascinating things and facts, divided into thematic chapters: books that aren’t books, books made of flesh and blood, cryptic books, literary hoaxes, curious collections, works of the supernatural, religious oddities, curiosities of science, books of spectacular sizes and strange titles. Some I knew about; some were new to me. Some were completely hilarious, most of them made me gawk – humans are a gullible and wacky species. One of the most amusing parts was from the Portuguese – English dictionary produced by the Portuguese writer Pedro Carolino, in the mid-nineteenth century. Why? Because Carolino didn’t know English at all, so he translated all words into French, based on Portuguese-to-French phrasebook, and then from French to English, based on a dictionary. According to Edward Brooke-Hitching, “Jettisoning all idiomatic nuances, Carolino succeeded in birthing the world’s worst language guide, a mad bag of nonsense […], published in Paris in 1855.” Indeed. Not to mention the books wrote by dead writers, through a medium. “As luck would have it, the psychic connection seems to be strongest with the great titans of literature, but their skills invariably prove to have rusted somehow post mortem. ‘Strange perversions of style occur,’ the book historian Walter Hart Blumenthal noted dryly in 1955, ‘and lapses into the commonplace, even the maudlin, give rise to the suspicion that the afterlife is not especially stimulating to the literary spirit.’” An honorable mention gets the one who sued god because her house was struck by a lightning due to the negligence from its part; that’s how I found out there has been also in Romania a similar lawsuit. The craziness in people... The author has a keen sense of humor and his observations are witty and hilarious. The book also features lots of coloured illustrations, making the whole experience of reading it a delight. All in all, the perfect reading to end the year in high spirit and with lots of laughs. >>> ARC received thanks to Chronicle Books via NetGalley <<< Note: even if this edition is an ARC and will be published next year in April, there is also another from Simon & Schuster UK, already available.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Gizem-in-Wonderland

    Get ready to be engrossed in this literary feast, a dream book for curious bibliophiles, who are obssessed with not just books but books about books, here we have one of the best examples of bookception. I absolutely loved this collection of the strangest books and literary curiosities, which will surely tickle the curious bone of the everyday bibliophile and quench the never-ending thirst for more. It contains multitudes of bizarre examples of books, most of which were totally unknown to me. I Get ready to be engrossed in this literary feast, a dream book for curious bibliophiles, who are obssessed with not just books but books about books, here we have one of the best examples of bookception. I absolutely loved this collection of the strangest books and literary curiosities, which will surely tickle the curious bone of the everyday bibliophile and quench the never-ending thirst for more. It contains multitudes of bizarre examples of books, most of which were totally unknown to me. I learned a lot while enjoying it, a wholesome package of knowledge and entertainment. In here you will find some elegant samples of books that are not actually books (including wearable, tearable, edible, mummified books), cryptobooks (including every romantic, obscene cryptic love letters), bibliohoaxes (books that were meant to be ridiculous but taken too seriously), supernatural books, pseudo-scientific books (including a riveting image of blood transfusion between a goat and man!), mini and maxi-sized books ever written and last but not least, books with strange titles that will make you question your reading choice. This magnificently constructed, beautifully illustrated book will spark imagination, provoke enthusiasm to research and read more. As quoted in the introduction from Rosenbach, this book is for booksworms, who “go long journeys halfway about the world, forget friendships, even lie, cheat and steal, all for the gain of a book.” Loved it! (I received a complimentary copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

  3. 5 out of 5

    anud-be

    Many thanks to Netgalley and Chronicle Books for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review. I need this book in my vicinity, like physically, I need it to exist in my book shelves asap. I'm so buying the hardback and rereading it. I loved it so so much, it was filled to the brim with awesome, funny, scary horrifying facts, I was left dumbfounded after each reading session. My favorite story was the story of the war prisoner Peter Moen. I found "The Japanese farting competitions" h Many thanks to Netgalley and Chronicle Books for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review. I need this book in my vicinity, like physically, I need it to exist in my book shelves asap. I'm so buying the hardback and rereading it. I loved it so so much, it was filled to the brim with awesome, funny, scary horrifying facts, I was left dumbfounded after each reading session. My favorite story was the story of the war prisoner Peter Moen. I found "The Japanese farting competitions" hilarious, and the human skin book binding the most horrifying. Had a sneak peek to the French revolution's atrocities with that maid pants story and smiled at the authors at the hoax section of the book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Maxine

    If you love books, not just the texts, but everything about them, you really need The Madman’s Library by Edward Brooke-Hitching. It describes books of every seemingly possible (and occasionally seemingly impossible) material and text. There are books that are fantastic, beautiful, sacrilegious and religious; books made of every conceivable material including human skin and written in human blood; books that are indecipherable and books that are just plain odd. But they are all amazing to look a If you love books, not just the texts, but everything about them, you really need The Madman’s Library by Edward Brooke-Hitching. It describes books of every seemingly possible (and occasionally seemingly impossible) material and text. There are books that are fantastic, beautiful, sacrilegious and religious; books made of every conceivable material including human skin and written in human blood; books that are indecipherable and books that are just plain odd. But they are all amazing to look at and read about. Brooke-Hitching’s descriptions are both informative and entertaining and the full-colour illustrations that accompany them are absolutely stunning. I definitely recommend this book highly for all the book lovers out there. Thanks to Netgalley and Chronicle Books for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review

  5. 5 out of 5

    Theediscerning

    Let's be frank, there's very little about this that appears at all mad (apart perhaps from some blood-letting Chinese scholars making their own ink from themselves), for some good time. This is a whirlwind tour of everything every book lover would love to have, from the Voynich Manuscript, to books bound in human skin, and through the fake Hitler diaries to the likes of "Masquerade", the puzzle book with the immense sales figures and golden rabbit reward, and no small sense, it turned out, of du Let's be frank, there's very little about this that appears at all mad (apart perhaps from some blood-letting Chinese scholars making their own ink from themselves), for some good time. This is a whirlwind tour of everything every book lover would love to have, from the Voynich Manuscript, to books bound in human skin, and through the fake Hitler diaries to the likes of "Masquerade", the puzzle book with the immense sales figures and golden rabbit reward, and no small sense, it turned out, of dubiousness. It does get suitably mad, and perhaps a smidge less interesting, when discussing antiquarian religious books produced in cahoots with the Devil, and the typical mediaeval medical advice involving lots of urine and dead animals. But everything bizarre that has ever been in print is here, so much so the likes of the "Hypnerotomachia Poliphili" and the "Malleus Maleficarum" are deemed too bloody mundane. Here's A N Wilson getting suitably shafted by a vengeful author, here's a wonderful chapter devoted to the smallest and then the largest volumes known to man, here is Jesus living to the age of 106 in Japan, while his brother took his place on the cross, and here is Stevie Wonder doing the soundtrack to a film about the psychic ability of plants, in one of the world-beating, if not world-stopping, bits of trivia to be gained here. Stupendous scope – the visuals are everywhere, and are wonderful, and contain just as much unique content as did the text – means this has to get a five star rating. Yes, it preaches to the converted, in being a book honouring books for people who honour books, but it's joyous, over-too-soon fun.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Nisha Joshi (in the midst of an Austengasm)

    Totally fascinating and utterly stupendous. This book lists manuscripts and books from as early as 1400 BC and there are pictures, lots of them. There is hardly anything mad about this book but it is amazing how man has always wanted to make a mark in the world. This will make a great coffee table book. The author has done a massive amount of research and the result shows. Thanks to Netgalley, Edward Brooke-Hitching, and Chronicle Books for the ARC.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Al Bità

    This rather astonishing book of historical literary curiosities will provide much to amuse and marvel at for anyone interested in the range and depth of human capabilities (and surely that is all of us!). The book is lavishly illustrated throughout, with each illustration accompanied by its explanatory box — and simply perusing through those will provide hours of pleasure… The Introduction provides us with the author’s story of his own interest in this subject-matter, and lays out the basis for t This rather astonishing book of historical literary curiosities will provide much to amuse and marvel at for anyone interested in the range and depth of human capabilities (and surely that is all of us!). The book is lavishly illustrated throughout, with each illustration accompanied by its explanatory box — and simply perusing through those will provide hours of pleasure… The Introduction provides us with the author’s story of his own interest in this subject-matter, and lays out the basis for the organisation of the remainder of the book. The writing is pragmatic and relatively straightforward (although I would have preferred if the editors had provided more consideration to the sectional aspects of this, through the use, perhaps, of judicious boldface openings to the various sub-sections to assist the reader — but this is a minor quibble). Brooke-Hitching’s cool, rather detached style should not alienate: there is much, much more in the written aspects for each chapter, specifically many stories and anecdotes that widen the perspective. And every now and then there is the author’s rather sly sense of humour that peeps through with wry comments and asides… Perhaps the most astonishing aspect of all of this is the extent to which the human mind can range: from the gruesome, the most grotesque, the most beautiful, the most outrageous, the most obsessive, the most insane — the list goes on and on. Here also are the contenders for the smallest books ever published, the longest novel so far written, and for physically gargantuan-sized books. Some of these would also require technological marvels of ingenuity and expertise needed to realise them. One such example which might be overlooked can be found in the first column on page 222 where we can see what looks like an elongated underline encased between brackets; use a magnifying glass to look more closely at the “underline” and be amazed — you are looking at a sentence written in the smallest typeface ever created, and this was achieved in 1819! There is, perhaps, a rather pedantic quality to this work. The objects it exhibits are simply presented. They actually exist. Brooke-Hitching provides basic backgrounds as to the reasons why such works were done, and one feels that similar deeds will continue to be realised in the future, but one cannot help but feel the question remains unresolved. One the one hand they express the loftiest of ambitions and creativity; on the other they raise questions as to the soundness of mind of their creators. Perhaps the most accurate answer to the question why? is “because it seemed like a good idea at the time”, but it is also true that curiosity, obsessiveness, ingenuity, and other like qualities are equally valid. One thing is clear: there is no limit to what human beings have, and will achieve. All these objects exist because we are human: they are the products of humanity. And perhaps that in itself should both exhilarate and terrify us in equal measure!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    The Madman's Library is probably the perfect folly to finish off a 2020 reading year. Fabulous illustrations and written with an understated tongue in cheek scepticism that really appealed to my sense of humour. Despite reading about books created from all sorts of things, including bound in human skin and written in blood (ehhhh- that's the sound of me making a face through a whole chapter of icky things). It covers an enormous amount of ground. Filled to the brim with interesting titbits about The Madman's Library is probably the perfect folly to finish off a 2020 reading year. Fabulous illustrations and written with an understated tongue in cheek scepticism that really appealed to my sense of humour. Despite reading about books created from all sorts of things, including bound in human skin and written in blood (ehhhh- that's the sound of me making a face through a whole chapter of icky things). It covers an enormous amount of ground. Filled to the brim with interesting titbits about books written in code and Cryptic books. Literary hoaxes and curious collections. Some of the supernatural books, religious books and Science curiosities were as fanciful as each other and probably could have been interchanged in Chapters. Back to my not so much mad library it goes.... it's not overdue at least :D

  9. 4 out of 5

    RoshReviews

    As the tagline of this book suggests, it is a collection of "the Strangest Books, Manuscripts and Other Literary Curiosities from History." The book contains many interesting historical tidbits about strange, curiousity-inducing books from the past. While the collection covered is staggering, the information is presented in a very dry manner. I felt like I was reading a documentary rather than reading an captivating ode to the books of the past. The photographs are vast in range and do absolute As the tagline of this book suggests, it is a collection of "the Strangest Books, Manuscripts and Other Literary Curiosities from History." The book contains many interesting historical tidbits about strange, curiousity-inducing books from the past. While the collection covered is staggering, the information is presented in a very dry manner. I felt like I was reading a documentary rather than reading an captivating ode to the books of the past. The photographs are vast in range and do absolute justice to the book. After a few chapters, I just began flipping through the photographs as I couldn't maintain interest in the writing style. This will be a fabulous book no doubt for those who like to read encyclopaedic tomes but they aren't my cup of tea and I was expecting something else from this ARC. Thank you to NetGalley and Chronicle Books for providing this ARC.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jess

    "Subjective Strangeness is in the eye of the book holder" "The Madman's Library" is a MUST HAVE for every book collector. Edward Brooke-Hitching dives into the obscure history of books and all of it's oddities to compile the strangest books throughout history. "The Madman's Library" brings into the spotlight the outcasts for once, the books not mentioned in popular culture or primary school, the books considered too controversial or odd, abandoned and forgotten about, and tells us the fascinating "Subjective Strangeness is in the eye of the book holder" "The Madman's Library" is a MUST HAVE for every book collector. Edward Brooke-Hitching dives into the obscure history of books and all of it's oddities to compile the strangest books throughout history. "The Madman's Library" brings into the spotlight the outcasts for once, the books not mentioned in popular culture or primary school, the books considered too controversial or odd, abandoned and forgotten about, and tells us the fascinating stories of how they were created. Being an eccentric, antique book collecting, history obsessed artist myself, I absolutely LOVED this entire book. It is beautifully illustrated as well. "The Madman's Library" is the perfect coffee table book or would make a unique gift for all of your book loving friends. Thank you Netgalley for the copy, I really enjoyed it.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    I really enjoyed this history of the strange, weird and wonderful books that have been produced over the centuries from the gruesome to the sublime. A real eye opener, some excellent illustrations and pictures and done on good quality paper, for the cost you cannot really go wrong.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nicki Markus

    The Madman's Library was a fascinating read from start to finish. It's an amazing compendium of facts and tales that covers everything from books bound in human skin to the smallest books in the world. The lavish illustrations help to bring the stories of these bizarre books to life, while the prose is both informative and entertaining. This is definitely a work that will appeal to avid bibliophiles and it would make a great talking point as a coffee table read. A worthy addition to the library The Madman's Library was a fascinating read from start to finish. It's an amazing compendium of facts and tales that covers everything from books bound in human skin to the smallest books in the world. The lavish illustrations help to bring the stories of these bizarre books to life, while the prose is both informative and entertaining. This is definitely a work that will appeal to avid bibliophiles and it would make a great talking point as a coffee table read. A worthy addition to the library of any book enthusiast and you're sure to learn something new from its pages. I received this book as a free eBook ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Travelling Bookworm

    “The books I have always been interested in finding are the sunken gems twinkling in the gloom of this giant remainder, the oddities abandoned to obscurity, too strange for categorization yet proving to be even more intriguing than their celebrated kin.” -------------------- Starting off with a gem of an opening sentence "I had just turned one when my father first used me as a bidder's paddle at auction.", I was immediately obsessed with this fascinating book and its accompanying, mesmerizingly be “The books I have always been interested in finding are the sunken gems twinkling in the gloom of this giant remainder, the oddities abandoned to obscurity, too strange for categorization yet proving to be even more intriguing than their celebrated kin.” -------------------- Starting off with a gem of an opening sentence "I had just turned one when my father first used me as a bidder's paddle at auction.", I was immediately obsessed with this fascinating book and its accompanying, mesmerizingly beautiful illustrations. It turns out that the opening sentence was only a harbinger to the strange, hilarious collection of literary oddities that would follow in the next pages. The Madman's Library is an incredible journey in unexpected literature: from books written in code still unsolved to this day, to books made of human skin and blood, stories written on musical instruments, books written by imaginary counts, by ghosts, about non-existent lands, and about whether it's possible to keep a severed head "alive" (spoiler alert: no, it is most definitely not). Written in an entertaining, engaging, and clearly expert voice, this unique collection asks the reader to delve into the very core of bibliophilia, exploring what passions, secrets and soul actually makes a book. Definitely recommended for those who love to read books about books, and learn weird facts to freak out guests at dinner parties. At the very least, you are sure to expand your reading list with a few essential books that you might have missed, such as: Sun-beams May Be Extracted From Cucumbers, But the Process Is Tedious (1799) by David Daggett Ducks; and How to Make Them Pay (1890) by William Cook Does the Earth Rotate? No! (1919) by William Westfield and of course, the invaluable guide to surviving the 2020s: How to Good-bye Depression: If You Constrict Anus 100 Times Everyday. Malarkey? or Effective Way? (2000) by Hiroyuki Nishigaki (I have received this book as an ARC from NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.)

  14. 5 out of 5

    layla

    This was utterly fascinating! I swear I was bookmarking every other page. I am going to be regaling the stories in here to everyone I know. I’m always apprehensive about whether or not the writing might be too academic when reading a nonfiction text but I’m glad to say that was not at all the case here. I really enjoyed the author’s writing and especially his sense of humor, which the writing is definitely imbued with. Brooke-Hitching’s did a wonderful job telling the stories behind these curiosi This was utterly fascinating! I swear I was bookmarking every other page. I am going to be regaling the stories in here to everyone I know. I’m always apprehensive about whether or not the writing might be too academic when reading a nonfiction text but I’m glad to say that was not at all the case here. I really enjoyed the author’s writing and especially his sense of humor, which the writing is definitely imbued with. Brooke-Hitching’s did a wonderful job telling the stories behind these curiosities and I can’t wait to get my hands on a physical copy of this book. This is an exceptional coffee table book in my opinion and is most definitely a conversation starter. An engrossing, captivating, and all too amusing read.

  15. 5 out of 5

    MoonSugar

    2.5* This was an interesting read about odd books made throughout history. I like that there is a lot of pictures of the items mentioned included. This book consists of a few chapters that are focused on different aspects of why books are strange - their size, the materials used to make them, the way they are written, having funny mistakes in them and so on. This book is very focused on history, so if you usually don't enjoy reading history books in the first place, you probably won't enjoy this on 2.5* This was an interesting read about odd books made throughout history. I like that there is a lot of pictures of the items mentioned included. This book consists of a few chapters that are focused on different aspects of why books are strange - their size, the materials used to make them, the way they are written, having funny mistakes in them and so on. This book is very focused on history, so if you usually don't enjoy reading history books in the first place, you probably won't enjoy this one very much. It was very hard to read and follow because of its dense and dry writing. Way too many years and names listed one after another - I got completely lost and bored a lot of times. All those fun and interesting stories about books could be told in much more memorable way. (I got and ARC through NetGalley.)

  16. 4 out of 5

    Donna Holland

    Extraordinary stories and very lavish illustration this book gathers together the weirdest books/ manuscripts from history .A Bibliophiles dream .

  17. 4 out of 5

    Justine

    Thanks to NetGalley and Chronicle Books for providing an ARC!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    So, unfortunately, this was written as a boring documentary. After a while I stopped reading and just checked the pictures. The pictures were good and interesting and they saved the book. Nothing was particularly strange. You're too used to weird things. So, unfortunately, this was written as a boring documentary. After a while I stopped reading and just checked the pictures. The pictures were good and interesting and they saved the book. Nothing was particularly strange. You're too used to weird things.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lynsey Walker

    My word what a book! A book about mad, bad and dangerous to know books that is itself a work of fabulous, fabulous booky wonderfulness!!! If you are a bibliophile then you need a copy of this on your book shelf, and you need to take it down whenever you feel sad to indulge in it's delights at it will always make you smile. It is packed full of stunning pictures and wonderful tales of all different kinds of books, my personal fave being the book if you print off will cause the world to implode. Se My word what a book! A book about mad, bad and dangerous to know books that is itself a work of fabulous, fabulous booky wonderfulness!!! If you are a bibliophile then you need a copy of this on your book shelf, and you need to take it down whenever you feel sad to indulge in it's delights at it will always make you smile. It is packed full of stunning pictures and wonderful tales of all different kinds of books, my personal fave being the book if you print off will cause the world to implode. Seriously tempted to hit that print button. And if stories and pictures about odd slices of literary history was not magic enough, Mr Brooke-Hitching's witty little comments dotted about the text actually had me laughing out loud. I would like him very much to be my friend. Amazingly well researched and a joy to behold, you all need to get involved with this book right away it is a true gem.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Alex Sarll

    Opening with the immortal line "I had just turned one when my father first used me as a bidder's paddle at auction," a baggy but beautifully illustrated survey of some of the odder examples to be found among the estimated 130,000,000 books in existence. Sometimes it's an individual edition or even copy that's noteworthy – the Kipling which stopped a bullet with 20 pages to spare, or a Koran written in Saddam Hussein's blood (at his own insistence, rather than by an enemy as one might have though Opening with the immortal line "I had just turned one when my father first used me as a bidder's paddle at auction," a baggy but beautifully illustrated survey of some of the odder examples to be found among the estimated 130,000,000 books in existence. Sometimes it's an individual edition or even copy that's noteworthy – the Kipling which stopped a bullet with 20 pages to spare, or a Koran written in Saddam Hussein's blood (at his own insistence, rather than by an enemy as one might have thought). Elsewhere, it is books which are strange in themselves, and obviously that's a loose and debatable category. There's a lot of familiar material here – from Masquerade and the Hitler diaries to 'to craunch the marmoset' – even if it is sometimes presented from an unfamiliar angle; I think this may be the first time I've read an account of glove-puppet snake god Glycon which was neither by nor mentioned the modern leader of his cult, Alan Moore. I knew about the Sin On Bible and the Adulterer's Bible, but not the Owl Bible, a 1944 edition where a broken letter 'n' at the printer turns 1 Peter 3:5 into "For after this manner, the holy women also, who trusted God, adorned themselves also, being in subjection to their owl husbands." Equally, I knew about Titivillus, the demon responsible for scribal errors, but not that the OED spent at least half a century with an incorrect page reference regarding him. Stranger still were the times when things I'd not long since learned myself came along, from Hernando Columbus' book of epitomes, to Dark Archives and the history of books bound in human skin. But there was nonetheless a great deal of wholly new stuff, from improbably fluorescent crabs to Bevis Hillier's brilliant revenge-hoax on AN Wilson (who knew Betjeman biographers were such bitches?). Fakes, scandals, outsider art, even an entire auction of books which didn't exist from a library that didn't exist, the venue and purchaser also invented, but whose real (if entirely untrue) catalogue now goes for £12,000 – all manner of ridiculousness is here, much of it exactly the sort of thing one feels compelled to show or read to an amused or long-suffering spouse. Sometimes it veers a long way from the theme of odd books, perhaps because the book is really just a peg to hang a story on, as with the surprising shrine of Jesus' other grave – you know, the one in Japan, where he died a centenarian? Or, still in the religious section, there's John Murray Spear, a 19th century American preacher who attempted to construct an electrically powered messiah. The biggest stretch may be the section on peculiar typewriters, but it's not like they're not worth a look, especially given some of them look like the devices used by an unusually twee and steampunk faction of cenobites. Besides, given the nature of the project, expecting a more disciplined approach would be a contradiction in terms; it's a cabinet of curiosities, part of which is that not every entry can be of interest to every visitor, but all will find something to tickle their fancy. Barring a list of peculiar titles, the book's final section comes back around nicely to core concerns, first exploring the list of ever more minuscule volumes competing for the title of world's smallest book, before taking us to the other extreme with the PDF publication of Googolplex Written Out. Now, we've many of us had cause to swear upon pressing 'print' on a document that was longer than expected, but no bad language could suffice for this one, where printing it would require more matter than exists in the known universe. Meaning we must be content, in terms of physical books, with minnows like the 7.5 ton publication of the complete Brazilian tax laws, on which the lawyer responsible is shown sitting, some distance from the ground. Of course, having been printed in 2014, it's already well out of date – though alas, when contacted prior to inclusion, the publisher confirmed that no expanded second edition is planned. Also, the 18th century slang 'fun thruster', for a sodomite, is definitely due a revival. And as for mathematician John Napier denouncing 22 popes as "abominable necromancers", if the family stories about him are even halfway true then he had a bloody cheek. Oh, and if you think this review is one of those trailers that includes all the good bits of the film – seriously, there's plenty more here that's just as wonderfully silly. (Netgalley ARC)

  21. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

    NOTE: I received a free preliminary, and likely unedited copy of this book from Netgalley for the purposes of providing an honest, unbiased review of the material. Thank you to all involved. I love books like The Madman's Library. I was an avid fan of shows like Unsolved Mysteries and Ripley's Believe or Not! growing up, and quite enjoy these books that you often find at bookstores with all sorts of zany curiosities found within. The Madman's Library is particularly fun because it details all ma NOTE: I received a free preliminary, and likely unedited copy of this book from Netgalley for the purposes of providing an honest, unbiased review of the material. Thank you to all involved. I love books like The Madman's Library. I was an avid fan of shows like Unsolved Mysteries and Ripley's Believe or Not! growing up, and quite enjoy these books that you often find at bookstores with all sorts of zany curiosities found within. The Madman's Library is particularly fun because it details all manner of strange books from around the world, ones bound in human skin, ones that serve a secret purpose (like guns or a poison cabinet), and even ones that are a mystery even today (The Voynich manuscript). everything is neatly organized and there are plenty of detailed pictures on every page to showcase every odd edition. One downside to me getting a digital proof was the some of the images were fairly low-res, but I'd like to see one of the finished books in a few months, as I plan to buy this. I can't say that this is a book you can't live without or anything, but if you are like me and enjoy these weird alt-history books on strange happenings and things, you will love this book. I will have to definitely follow the author to see if anything else like this is produced.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Waddington

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Book 1 of the 2021 challenge - done!! I have just finished this wonderfully weird and interested fact-laden book which I asked for for Christmas from my Mum. It is definitely the book for book-lovers.... with chapters such as Cryptic Books, Curiosities of Science and my personal favourite.... Literary Hoaxes, this book is enlightening, hilarious, puzzling and at times, a little dark. My favourite anecdote come from the 1920s where an American man named George Shepherd Chappell writes a completel Book 1 of the 2021 challenge - done!! I have just finished this wonderfully weird and interested fact-laden book which I asked for for Christmas from my Mum. It is definitely the book for book-lovers.... with chapters such as Cryptic Books, Curiosities of Science and my personal favourite.... Literary Hoaxes, this book is enlightening, hilarious, puzzling and at times, a little dark. My favourite anecdote come from the 1920s where an American man named George Shepherd Chappell writes a completely fictitious travel journal to the ‘Filbert Islands’. This brilliant hoax includes some nonsense anecdotes about the locals and its wildlife. One particular highlight is a made-up bird called the Fatu-liva bird, who amongst other things, lays square eggs. The accompanying photos of these supposed eggs are blatantly a picture of some dice, with a single feather to make it that much more believable. This is the kind of book that I will probably continue to reread sections over the coming years, and will be relaying some of these random facts for a while yet.... sorry friends and family! 1 down, 29 to go, loving every minute ☺️📚☕️

  23. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    What a wonderfully wacky book! Filled with hilarious and disturbing anecdotes, richly detailed images, and a variety of book and book-adjacent themes, this would be a perfect addition to any bibliophile’s personal library. I can also see it used in book history courses; it’s very accessible and covers a wide range of topics, from what constitutes a book to how subject matter reflects cultural interests to how to tell stories with unconventional materials to the complex legacies of both cherished What a wonderfully wacky book! Filled with hilarious and disturbing anecdotes, richly detailed images, and a variety of book and book-adjacent themes, this would be a perfect addition to any bibliophile’s personal library. I can also see it used in book history courses; it’s very accessible and covers a wide range of topics, from what constitutes a book to how subject matter reflects cultural interests to how to tell stories with unconventional materials to the complex legacies of both cherished and reviled books. 4.5/5: A glimpse into the world of rare books and special collections that includes countless examples throughout human history, including non-Western materials. Plus, the examples provide plan ty of rabbit holes for readers to follow. Any lover of art, literature, history, or material culture will find lots to enjoy. I could definitely use a sequel for some of the content I am sure didn’t make it in this one. Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an ARC in exchange for an honest review!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn Drake

    Practically each entry in this book about books could be shared as a weird or interesting fact on QI. It's a throughly entertaining guide to an imaginary library put together by author Edward Brooke-Hitching, who wanted to capture the beauty and eccentricity of some of the most bizarre books from around the world. These range from the awe-inspiring to the vomit-inducing: amongst those described are books written in code on toilet paper by prisoners; catalogues of all the different types of trees Practically each entry in this book about books could be shared as a weird or interesting fact on QI. It's a throughly entertaining guide to an imaginary library put together by author Edward Brooke-Hitching, who wanted to capture the beauty and eccentricity of some of the most bizarre books from around the world. These range from the awe-inspiring to the vomit-inducing: amongst those described are books written in code on toilet paper by prisoners; catalogues of all the different types of trees made and bound in each specimen's wood and bark; and a Qu'ran commissioned by Saddam Hussein - written using 25 litres of the dictator's blood. The Madman's Library contains exquisite pictures and descriptions crafted with obvious joy and plenty of humour. A real treat.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Hatty

    This was definitely an interesting subject, but I found that the digital format I viewed it in definitely took away from my enjoyment. It was completely unreadable on Kindle, and even viewed on a computer many of the images were blurry. Perhaps this is more due to my own morbid interests, but I didn't find anything in this book particularly shocking or new. This is definitely a coffee table book to be leafed through on occasion, rather than a book to be read cover to cover—the writing wasn't abs This was definitely an interesting subject, but I found that the digital format I viewed it in definitely took away from my enjoyment. It was completely unreadable on Kindle, and even viewed on a computer many of the images were blurry. Perhaps this is more due to my own morbid interests, but I didn't find anything in this book particularly shocking or new. This is definitely a coffee table book to be leafed through on occasion, rather than a book to be read cover to cover—the writing wasn't absorbing enough to sustain my interest. [Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a Digital ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.]

  26. 4 out of 5

    Thảo Nguyễn

    It's a book about books, it's arranged thematically from cryptic books to religious books to science books... and many more. You might feel yourself 'Oh! So that is how they did it." or "Oh! I didn't know that could exist' when reading this book. A fascinating topic, but the writing is a bit dry, feels like you're watching a mundane documentary or browsing through an encyclopedia. For some people, it might feel okay but overall I don't really feel pulled into the book. Might work well as a rando It's a book about books, it's arranged thematically from cryptic books to religious books to science books... and many more. You might feel yourself 'Oh! So that is how they did it." or "Oh! I didn't know that could exist' when reading this book. A fascinating topic, but the writing is a bit dry, feels like you're watching a mundane documentary or browsing through an encyclopedia. For some people, it might feel okay but overall I don't really feel pulled into the book. Might work well as a random read as each entry is short and could be standalone.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kaye

    An interesting collection and discussion of odd and bizarre books. Some that are made from human flesh, some written in blood, some carved into skulls, etc. From thousands of years ago leading up to the present, there are many books that are not printed in a typical fashion. Some are on hides, some are pictographs, some are painted. For those who like to read and learn of historical oddities this book is a perfect addition for your perusal. Interesting images and discussions throughout. Highly r An interesting collection and discussion of odd and bizarre books. Some that are made from human flesh, some written in blood, some carved into skulls, etc. From thousands of years ago leading up to the present, there are many books that are not printed in a typical fashion. Some are on hides, some are pictographs, some are painted. For those who like to read and learn of historical oddities this book is a perfect addition for your perusal. Interesting images and discussions throughout. Highly recommend this book.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kelley

    Absolutely fascinating! Anyone who has any interest in books should pick this up! So much history, necessity and just plain oddity in here. Excellent photos, wonderful explanations. What a joy this must have been to research and write and it's also a joy to just sit back and devour. I actually took quite a while to enjoy this book. Paging back to review favorites, calling people over to look at things I found interesting. This book was a complete experience for me (and often those around me). Br Absolutely fascinating! Anyone who has any interest in books should pick this up! So much history, necessity and just plain oddity in here. Excellent photos, wonderful explanations. What a joy this must have been to research and write and it's also a joy to just sit back and devour. I actually took quite a while to enjoy this book. Paging back to review favorites, calling people over to look at things I found interesting. This book was a complete experience for me (and often those around me). Bravo, and thank you for this one!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jilly

    What a fascinating book! Full of wonderful and often puzzling illustrations and photographs, I loved reading about all the varied, curious, odd books that have been created, although I was shocked by the idea of using human skin to bind books. Whilst I was particularly engaged with the first half of the book, I did find it all a compelling read. Thank you to Edward Brooke-Hitching, Net Galley and Chronicle Books for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. I think this is a perfect gift for all bibliophiles, literature enthusiasts, and collectors out there who are intrigued by the unusual, fascinating and history of books/reading. This looks at the history of the bizarre, unusual, and fascinating books and documents in human history. It is well researched and with amazing illustrations to go along.

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