Which leads us to a more modern issue concerning Big Books.
Where to put them?
In the last decade, I’ve noticed a decline…hmmm…a better word is hesitancy…to invest in books in general and Big Books, in particular. Understandably, the antique books (see part 1) can be not only big, but precious and do not fit in well in a home of white walls facing glass walls. They tend to be as big as a first grader and possibly BROWN and neither is sensitive to modern aesthetics that bend towards clean and sparse and filled with light.
Those Audubon “Birds” are big birds and fancy picture books from the 19th century stick out like financial sore thumbs, screaming: “I’m very expensive and you are weak and afraid to turn my pages!”
Therefore, in the last 10 years, that includes 2 years of pandemic panic regarding our small, personal spaces, book collectors have gotten a bit spooked about Big (Brown) Books. (I mean…NFTs take up so little space, right?) Right.
So, what’s up with the market?
The answer is right back where we started from. Illustrated Big Books continue to be made by companies, like Taschen and Assouline, who specialize in visual narrative. The are big, they are beautiful and they are not cheap. What they are not, in most cases, are so precious their pages cannot be turned. But they are pricey, and some are quite collectible.
Big Books have managed to stay in character. They began as luxury items created in very small amounts for a very finite audience, and they remain so. What has changed is us. Most of us can now read, and even possibly afford some of those gorgeous, modern books piling up in cool bookstores and the gift shops of trendy museums (the day after Christmas sale), but few of us have any affordable place to put them!
The new luxury is affordable space. But, some books are just BIG, ya know? If you are a collector interested in illustrated books, there is little choice but to reserve some significant space on your shelves. If you have that itch, it’s best to work with it, not against it. “Big” is not just about size and space but about big money so be aware that the original price for most of these babies was large back in the day and just assume that price is going forward, not backward.
The old Big Books wait patiently.
After all, what do they care if the rent is too damn high?