It was first printed in 1899, it’s in the public domain, and it’s eye candy. How could I go past this? (I must admit, I couldn’t choose which Phillip K. Dick book to re-read, and felt a little guilty since I’ve re-read quite a few books for this challenge already. Also, shiny!) If you download this, make sure you get the version with pictures so that you get the full beauty.
It starts nicely enough, with a brief history of English book construction and illumination and decoration, but lingers a bit too much on emphasising how British and superlative the mentioned books are rather than explaining more about their construction and appearance. That only France and England maintained continuous schools of bookbinding throughout history was an interesting point, even if it was milked a bit. Once the book moves into the technical descriptions of materials and stitches (and in one case enamel) used to embroider fabric covers, the pace and readability pick up. The bulk of this book is basically bookporn and small interesting curatorial histories.
Because it’s exquisitely pretty and a book about books, it has been reviewed more than some of the other Project Gutenberg books I’ve read. At Textile Dreams, Mindsigh, and as always the book itself at Project Gutenberg.