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The Art of Reading: An Illustrated History of Books in Paint

Jamie Camplin and Maria Ranauro

“Why do artists love books?” This volume takes this tantalizingly simple question as a starting point to reveal centuries of symbiosis between the visual and literary arts. First looking at the development of printed books and the simultaneous emergence of the modern figure of the artist, The Art of Reading appraises works by the many great masters who took inspiration from the printed word.

Authors Jamie Camplin and Maria Ranauro weave together an engaging cultural history that probes the ways in which books and paintings represent a key to understanding ourselves and the past. Paintings contain a world of information about religion, class, gender, and power, but they also reveal details of everyday life often lost in history texts. Such artworks show us not only how books have been valued over time but also how the practice of reading has evolved in Western society.

Featuring over one hundred works by artists from across Europe and the United States and all painting genres, The Art of Reading explores the two-thousand-year story of the great painters and the preeminent information-providing, knowledge-endowing, solace-giving, belief-supporting, leisure-enriching, pleasure-delivering medium of all time: the book.

Jamie Camplin is a Cambridge-educated historian who retired in 2013 from a distinguished career as Thames & Hudson’s editorial and then managing director. He is the author of The Rise of the Plutocrats: Wealth and Power in Edwardian England and the historical novel 1914 The King Must Die. Maria Ranauro studied art history at the Courtauld Institute of Art before joining the publishing department at the National Gallery, London, where she was responsible for the visual content of a number of seminal exhibition catalogues. She is now a senior picture researcher at Thames & Hudson.

“There is no shortage of writings on the subject of books and reading but this volume in color . . . combines both reading and art and is mesmerizing.”
The Florida Times-Union

“Beautifully produced, impressively informative, as thoughtful and it is thought-provoking, The Art of Reading: An Illustrated History of Books in Paint is a unique and extraordinary study that is unreservedly recommended for the personal reading lists of all dedicated bibliophiles and will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community, college, and academic library collections.”
Midwest Book Review

“Bridging the gap between book and art lover perfectly, this work presents relevant information with stunning paintings to satisfy experts of both fields.”
—Library Journal

The Art Newspaper

“ . . . a thoroughly delightful book . . . “
—Tulsa Book Review

“ . . . [a] handsome, absorbing walkthrough of art history as seen through its paintings of books . . . ”
Chicago Tribune

“Although there is no shortage of books about books, The Art of Reading offers a welcome new perspective on the age-old tradition of reader as artist’s muse.”

256 pages
6 1/2 x 9 1/2 inches
165 color illustrations
ISBN 978-1-60606-586-0

Getty Publications