cover image AN ODYSSEY IN PRINT: Adventures in the Smithsonian Libraries

AN ODYSSEY IN PRINT: Adventures in the Smithsonian Libraries

Mary Augusta Thomas, Smithsonian Institution, Augusta Thomas Mary, . . Smithsonian, $29.95 (182pp) ISBN 978-1-58834-036-8

Accompanying the Smithsonian Libraries exhibition of the same name, this glossy volume is a catalogue of some of the most noteworthy volumes among the Libraries' holdings of 1.5 million books and manuscripts, beautifully illustrated with reproductions from the materials themselves. Curator of the Smithsonian's exhibition, Thomas organizes this fascinating tour of the collection around the theme of journeys. The first section, "Journeys Over Land and Sea," combines early European texts documenting the New World with later European and American books about air and space travel, like an early German children's book about a zeppelin voyage to "Neuyork," or the signed frontispiece of First on the Moon, by Neil Armstrong. The second section, "Journeys of the Mind," reproduces documents by scientists who explored the earth and hypothesized about the heavens, from detailed wildlife illustrations to a page from Johannes Kepler's Prologue to a dissertation on a description of the universe. The final section shows off the work of artists, writers, architects and commercial illustrators who were "explorers of the imagination." Thomas's introductory essay offers a capsule history of the Smithsonian Libraries, as well as details about the conservation and restoration of priceless volumes. The book also includes personal takes on the libraries by Pulitzer Prize–winning literary critic Michael Dirda of the Washington Post Book World, and Storrs L. Olson, senior curator in the Division of Birds at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. This is a delight for bibliophiles and general readers alike. (May)