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Coffee Table Books

Coffee table books are always beautiful and often inspiring, so how did such a delightful idea make its way to our tables? The coffee table book may have been invented by David Brower an environmentalist who served as the president of the Sierra Club. He had an idea to produce books that contained color plates from nature photographers. He wanted the pages big to show off the beauty of the images. The idea for coffee table books goes back further though, when French philosopher Michel de Montaigne bemoaned the use of his essays as a windowsill dressing for women. De Montaigne's work could be considered the first of the coffee table books.

Coffee Table Books More than just a book on your coffee table. Photo: Sarah Sphar

What Is a Coffee Table Book?

Origins of the idea aside, coffee table books are delightful additions to the ambiance of our homes. The books add a warm and welcoming look to our rooms and they add a finished look to a well-done design. There is a volume to prick the interest of everyone. Beautifully rendered with large color plates on fine paper the books are oversized and heavy, and the bindings are works of art. Many of these large beauties contain bits of informative text or thoughtful verses to accompany the photographs. A host or hostess will never lack for topics of conversation with a coffee table book at their fingertips.

Well known organizations and single authors alike produce some of the best known titles and editions of great coffee table books. For instance, the National Geographic publishes very attractive tabletop offerings of charming wildlife and breathtaking landscapes. Life Magazine published its 70 years of Extraordinary Photography in a coffee table books format, and it touches on some very controversial topics. The Guggenheim Foundation funded Robert Frank's trip across the United States to photograph the feel of the United States during the 1950s, and the resulting book 'The American's' was first published in France. The Abbeville Press publishes several books devoted to Norman Rockwell's Saturday Evening Post cover paintings. Other offerings include a work by Madonna, entitled “Sex.” On the day of its release it sold 150,000 copies, and it was published by Warner Books. It sells for a whopping $95.00, but beware this jewel of coffee table books when you display it, the content is adult only.

Work of Art

$95.00 may seem high for a book, but many coffee table books sell for quite a bit more. A book “Michelangelo: La Dotta Mano” sold for $126,864. This handmade rendering weighs 61 pounds, and it was made in Italy. It has 264 pages, and on the cover in white marble is a relief of Michelangelo's Madonna. The bindings are of red velvet, and hand crafted by the same people that made the stage curtains for La Scala. Inside is the real treasure with color plates of the Sistine Chapel on pages of paper made from 100% cotton. There were only 99 copies planned for this exquisite work, and donations have been made to the Prado Museum in Madrid where it is displayed beside the original Gutenberg Bible. Admirers of La Dotta Mano are traveling from all over the world to view the rare piece.

More Coffee Table Book Art

Another book of art is called “The Art Book.” This colorful publication is only $8.94 in hardcover, but it is a little gem among coffee table books. The Phaidon Press published the work, and it took the book of the year award in 1994. Inside are illustrations of over 500 famous masters, encompassing works from the Middle Ages to present day paintings and sculptures. It is touted as a complete history of art complete with illuminated copy on each piece depicted within. It weighs 4.4 pounds and has 505 pages and its colorful binding is an eye catcher. The book is engaging, and it is a struggle to put down once picked up.

Something for Everyone

There are coffee table books to suit everyone's taste and pocketbook. From history to dogs, and from art to sex, these coffee table books add flavor and sophistication to your home and your conversations. No home is complete without one to peruse while sipping your favorite Gourmesso coffee. Add one or more to your collection of coffee table books today, and your family and guests will thank you.