The good news from the world of the deluxe illustrated book is that gigantism is dead. In the exhibition called “The American Livre de Peintre,”[1] mounted at the Grolier Club in New York City and covering works from the past seventy or so years, most of the really outsized examples date from the 1960s and 1970s, and the show begins and ends with books that one can imagine holding in two hands. A reasonably sized illustrated book is not necessarily a good illustrated book, but a book that cannot even be opened except on a large empty table isn’t a book that’s easy to love. Not every book is going to be small enough to slip in a pocket or take to bed, but the magic of even the most deluxe illustrated book has in some way to be connected with our sense of a book as an enchanted universe between covers that we can close up, pick up, take with us. Robert Motherwell’s A la pintura and...


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