Columns > Published on June 3rd, 2016

10 Sexy-Ass Physical Books

There's really no other way to describe this list other than "book porn."

Okay, I'll try a little harder than that: in an age where the availability and convenience of eBooks makes digital books an ideal option both for publishers and consumers, we have to be reminded every now and then just how intricate, sumptuous, and downright sexy physical books can be. Thus, here are ten books both past and present that more than meet this criteria. Enjoy.


1. Edgar Allan Poe — 'Tales of Mystery and Imagination' (Franklin Library of Mystery Masterpieces, 1987)

There are plenty editions of this Poe collection that could appear on a sexy books list, but I'm particularly fond of this one (not the least because I own a copy). Not only does it elegantly recreate the illustrations by Henry Clarke, originally published in the 1919 George G. Harrap and Co. edition, but its hardback binding is both decorative and sturdy. This book just looks damn good on your shelf, and even better in your hands. (See the Amazon link below, as well as AbeBooks.com.)

 

 

[amazon B000VURBB0 inline]

 

2. Luigi Serafini — 'Codex Seraphinanianus'

Once one of the most rare (and therefore expensive) books in existence, the Codex was wonderfully reproduced in full color by Rizzoli in 2013. From the book blurb (reprinted from Amazon): "Ever since the Codex Seraphinianus was first published in 1981, the book has been recognized as one of the strangest and most beautiful art books ever made. This visual encyclopedia of an unknown world written in an unknown language has fueled much debate over its meaning." The image below is only one example of the book's beautiful weirdness.

 

 

[amazon 0847842134 inline]

 

3. Jennifer George — 'The Art of Rube Goldberg'

Not only does this book lovingly reprint artist Rube Goldberg's work, but the cover acts like a miniature Rube Goldberg machine (see video below of the cover in action). A perfect way to recreate the artist's whimsy.

 
[video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8KtTKCBMLCE]

[amazon 141970852X inline]

 

                                           4. Doug Dorst and J.J. Abrams — 'S.'

Feeling more like an intricate prop from an Indiana Jones film, this marked-up, map and photo-stuffed novel within a novel offers both a kind of obsessive entertainment value and meticulous, visually-appealing design. 

[amazon 0316201642 inline]

5. Nobyoshi Araki — 'Bondage' (Taschen Limited Edition)

Whether or not you're a fan of photographer Araki, who has centered much of his work around Kinbaku-bi, the Japanese art of erotic binding, you have to hand it to Taschen for releasing this limited edition collection of Araki's images. From their website: "This Collector’s Edition is limited to 845 copies, each numbered and signed by Nobuyoshi Araki. It consists of three volumes, enticingly hand-bound in the Japanese tradition and packaged in a wooden box, featuring Araki’s selection of his favorite bondage photos from over his entire career." Check out the Taschen site for a few examples of the book's content (depending on where you work, it's NSFW).

[amazon 3836517892 inline]

 

6. Pennyroyal Caxton Bible (Limited Edition)

Regardless of your religious affiliations, you have to admit this book is damn sexy. For one thing, it's enormous—the two-volume set measures 16 X 11.5 inches, so the artwork by Barry Moser, who used a wood-engraving-like technique, stands out bold and crisp on the page. Here's a little more info from the Pennyroyal Caxton website: "Each volume is laid into its own full linen tray case. The bindings are full limp vellum with titles stamped in 24 carat gold on the cover and spine. Each signature was folded by hand using linen thread. The head bands and tail bands were also sewn by hand using linen thread."

 

[amazon B0044M37GO inline]

 

7. Carl Jung — 'The Red Book' or 'Liber Novus'

From 1913 to 1917 (and several years after) psychologist Carl Jung went through a period of intense creative output and possible madness following the deterioration of his friendship with Sigmund Freud. The collected drawings and writings were committed to a red leather-bound folio, hence the name (though Jung embossed the title Liber Novus on the book's spine). In 2009, publishers W.W. Norton recreated The Red Book and released it to the public for the first time since its creation. Needless to say, Norton took their time fashioning this sumptuous and intricate book.

 

[amazon 0393065677 inline]

 

8. Arthur Yorinks, Matthew Reinhart and Maurice Sendak — 'Mommy?'

A pop-up book illustrated by Maurice Sendak, featuring classic Universal-inspired monsters. I rest my case. (Or, if you want further proof, just watch the below video).

 
[video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HuBIjUGgwgM]

[amazon 9780439880503 inline]

 

9. William Shakespeare — First Folio

Aside from the historical significance of this book, originally published in 1623 and now extremely rare, the First Folio (full title Mr. William Shakespeare's Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies) is simply a well-made and fantastic volume. Its simplicity is its elegance. Do yourself a favor and see one in person, if you can. If not, take a look at this complete photographic reproduction, courtesy the Folger Shakespeare Library. There's also the Norton Facsimile edition (linked below) which does a decent job of recreating the First Folio, though it isn't exactly priced to move.

 

 

[amazon 0393039854 inline]

 

10. Stephen King — 'Carrie' (Cemetery Dance Deluxe Lettered Artist Edition)

Featuring outstanding paintings by Tomislav Tikulin, a leather-bound black slipcase with a red cloth interior, heavy-duty paper and fine binding, this is Stephen King's debut novel like you've never seen it before, lovingly crafted by Cemetery Dance Publications. There are less spiffy editions you can still buy from CD, but this three-piece traycase edition was limited to 52 copies, and I found exactly zero for sale on eBay / Amazon. If you have one, cling to your precious. Here's some more info courtesy TheDarkTower.org: "Traycased Oversized Hardcover Artist Lettered Edition signed by the artist and limited to 52 hand-lettered copies printed in two colors on a specialty paper stock; bound in two different fine materials in a hand-made three piece binding featuring spine hubs, gilded page edges, two color hot foil stamping, and imported hand-marbled endpapers; featuring a different full-color signature sheet signed by the artist, and housed in a traycase."

[amazon 1587674793 inline]


Any other sexy-ass books you'd add to this list? Let us know your picks in the comments section below.

About the author

Christopher Shultz writes plays and fiction. His works have appeared at The Inkwell Theatre's Playwrights' Night, and in Pseudopod, Unnerving Magazine, Apex Magazine, freeze frame flash fiction and Grievous Angel, among other places. He has also contributed columns on books and film at LitReactor, The Cinematropolis, and Tor.com. Christopher currently lives in Oklahoma City. More info at christophershultz.com

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