No stranger to mammoth all-encompassing surveys of art history, Phaidon is at it again. In October the art book publisher plans to publish The Art Museum, a nearly 1,000-page comprehensive history of art from antiquity to the present, conceived as a virtual museum-in-a-book that attempts to create the ideal museum, unconstrained by physical space. Compiled over 10 years by more than 100 specialists, the book collects more than 2,500 of the most beautiful and significant works in the history of art.

Phaidon publisher Richard Schlagman called it "the most ambitious project that Phaidon has yet undertaken. With its inventive format, scholarship, and vast scope, it will provide great knowledge and pleasure for years to come."

Much like other Phaidon oversized art historical reference works including 30,000 Years of Art, The Art Book, and the truly gigantic Atlas of 21st Century World Architecture, The Art Museum brings together voluminous scholarship, high production values, edgy design, and sheer informational heft in one unique publication. In an interview at the PW offices, Phaidon editorial director Amanda Renshaw said the works of art chosen for the book were selected by a team of "distinguished" curators, art teachers, scholars, and archeologists. The works selected come from more than 650 museums around the world including 100 in the U.S. "It's the best stuff from everywhere," said Renshaw.

"What if you were building a museum?" she said. "Imagine having unlimited space and an unlimited budget. What would you put in it? That's what we've done." The book ($200; 3,000 color illus.) is organized around color-coded galleries that focus on broad spans of art history, each featuring a series of "rooms" displaying specific works. The book covers everything from King Tut and the Mona Lisa to Jackson Pollock, earth works, and contemporary works being shown in galleries today. "Most of the great works of history are self-selecting," Renshaw said, "but the past 50 years or so are under debate, and we weigh in with our experts."

Phaidon launched the book during BEA at a party at the Phaidon store in SoHo. Phaidon publicity director Liz Thompson said national book chains are ordering the book as well as "nontraditional retailers" like Urban Outfitters, Costco, Pottery Barn, and others. "Retailers are looking to offer a lifestyle, and a lot of people want the Phaidon lifestyle," she said. To promote the title, Phaidon is creating POS units for retailers, and developing a national publicity campaign and online marketing through the newly relaunched Web site, which functions like an online magazine with interviews, videos, and other content. Phaidon is also planning a series of promotional events around the country to tie in with U.S. museums that have works included in The Art Museum. The book will have a global release.

"It's a book for anyone who's ever visited a museum and thought they needed a key or didn't quite understand what they were looking at," Renshaw said.