. . . actually the size of a coffee table.
Visitors to the New York Public Library admire a newly made book on Michelangelo; its cover is a bas-relief of the artist’s “Madonna of the Steps.”
A day after the official declaration of a national recession, visitors journeyed to the New York Public Library from Atlanta, Palm Beach, Fla., White Plains and Queens to see a $126,000 coffee-table book that is actually the size of a coffee table.
“We have to catch a plane to Florida in half an hour, but we wanted to see the most beautiful book in the world,” said Betty Katarain Rosado, an interior designer from Palm Beach who stood in the cold for 20 minutes waiting for the library to open with her husband, Gilbert, an engineer. They had time for just a glimpse of The Book at its first public viewing in the United States.
O.K.: it’s more than a coffee-table book. The rare, 61-pound book, made recently by hand, was toiled over by scholars, artists and artisans. Called “Michelangelo: La Dotta Mano” (“Michelangelo: The Learned Hand”), the book, an Italian language celebration of his work, cost 100,000 euros (about $126,864) to make in Italy and was donated on Monday to the library, where it will be on view through Monday.
The Rosados oohed and aahed and snapped each other’s photographs with the book when they finally saw it displayed behind Lucite on the western side of the Bill Blass Catalog Room on the third floor. “You’d need your life savings to buy it,” Mr. Rosado said, before racing to La Guardia Airport.
Not to be too decadent about it, the cover of the 264-page book — which took months to print and construct employing Renaissance skills — is adorned with a bas-relief depiction of Michelangelo’s “Madonna of the Steps,” sculptured on a piece of white marble from one of the Polvaccio quarries in Carrara, Italy, that supplied stone for the master’s statues.
Its positively sybaritic binding is swathed in red velvet from the same Italian workshop that supplied stage curtains to the Metropolitan Opera and La Scala in Milan. And the book’s photographs and plates of drawings and images of the Sistine Chapel are printed on luxurious paper of pure cotton produced in Italy.
The creation of the book is “a provocation in the age of the Internet,” said Marilena Ferrari, president of FMR, a fine-art publishing house in Italy. “It is important to reaffirm that books are not disappearing.” She also heads the company’s charitable foundation, which donated the book to the library.