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

The Madman's LibraryThe Madman's Library
by Edward Brooke-Hitching
Rating: ★★★★½
isbn: 9781471166914
Publication Date: October 7, 2020
Pages: 255
Genre: Books and Reading, History, Non-fiction
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

This is a madman’s library of eccentric and extraordinary volumes from around the world, many of which have been completely forgotten. 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, books of code and cypher whose secrets remain undiscovered… and a few others that are just plain weird.

From the 605-page Qur'an written in the blood of Saddam Hussein, through the gorgeously decorated 15th-century lawsuit filed by the Devil against Jesus, to the lost art of binding books with human skin, every strand of strangeness imaginable (and many inconceivable) has been unearthed and bound together for a unique and richly illustrated collection ideal for every book-lover.

I knew I wanted this book as soon as I saw it; gorgeously illustrated in full colour, and really well written, this is exactly what is purports to be.  Broken into categorical chapters that include “Books that aren’t Books”; “Books Made of Flesh and Blood”; “Literary Hoaxes”, etc., the book covers a comprehensive span of the beautiful, the frightful and the unusual.

I enjoyed Brooke-Hitching’s writing style, appreciating his small infusions of humour as well as the information he imparted about each category and specific books. It was easy to read, but not easy reading; I found reading a chapter at a time worked well for my comprehension and enjoyment – the one time I tried to read more in one sitting, I found my eyes glazing over.

All in all, an enjoyable book and one that I’m happy to have on my bookshelves.

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