Madmans Library: The Strangest Books, Manuscripts and Other Literary Curiosties from History is an utterly magnificent book. It is a fabulous collection of odd manuscripts and books made over the centuries. It has a wide display of images gathered from private collections and libraries. 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 size, and strangely titled books. While it is excellent documentation, this book itself is worth reading for the chatty, informative style of Edward Brooke-Hitching. He is the son of an antiquarian book dealer. Now Edward is a rare book collector too. The kind of information gathered here is not just that gathered by bookish research but imbibed through storytelling as a child. He dies not say so but the stories shared are told in a manner that he had heard of these legends, before he embarked on a quest to garner sufficient details. This is an information-rich book that can get tedious to read but does not. It is easily dipped into and read from any point. For once, the text in a beautifully illustrated book is as much of a joy to behold as are the phenomenal images. There is sufficient care to ensure that all elements in the book come together splendidly, as harmoniously as the books catalogued in it.
3 May 2021