Visit Nature of the Book online

Nature of the Book explores the craft, innovation, and ingenuity of the handmade book of centuries past. It tells a story of both local resourcefulness and global influence—from Asia, the Middle East and North Africa—that was essential to the Western book as we know it. 

The exhibition examines books of the hand-press era (from the use of moveable type in Europe in about 1450 to the rise of mechanization in the 19th century) through the myriad natural materials—animal, vegetable, and mineral—that went into their making. From essential ingredients like flax, leather, copper, and lead, to the unexpected, like wasps and seaweed, Nature of the Book shows what the use of these materials can tell us about the book, touching on questions of use, process, global trade, and economy.

Curated by Vanessa Haight Smith and Katharine C. Wagner,
Smithsonian Libraries and Archives
with Alexandra K. Alvis, formerly of Smithsonian Libraries and Archives

Designed, edited, and produced by Smithsonian Exhibits

Nature of the Book is made possible through the generous support of
The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation
and the Smithsonian Libraries and Archives Advisory Board

Visit the Exhibition
November 11, 2022 - September 3, 2024

National Museum of Natural History, Ground Floor
10th St. and Constitution Ave NW
Washington, DC 20560

Collage of book images

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