Celebrating Vintage Books: A Stunning, $800 Atlas

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First up in a new video series on literary treasures: a look at the beautifully designed World Geo-Graphic Atlas, from 1953

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I love books. Especially obscure ones that brim with vintage design goodness, not to mention my obsession with creative cartography and map books. So I'm exhilarated about the launch of Rare Book Feast—an ongoing video project by Nate Burgos, endearingly self-described "designer for the fortune 5,000,000," celebrating the timeless beauty of books in the age of digital ephemera. Burgos shares my deep belief in the remarkable intellectual and creative enrichment available to us from early design history and the creative problem-solving of eras past.

"This series is about the timeless character of books. Their message and what they look like are what is celebrated here. As our culture becomes digital in a lot of ways, it is all the more important (not to mention inviting) to revisit and learn from the early design challenges, creative solutions and general lessons that the 'old' print world keeps relevant." Nate Burgos

The series launches with a look at World Geo-Graphic Atlas—a stunning 1953 book envisioned by designer, photographer, painter, and architect Herbert Bayer and co-designed with Martin Rosenzweig, Henry Gardiner, and Masato Nakagawa, featuring over 2,200 diagrams, graphs, charts, and symbols about the Earth in 368 gorgeous pages, with a profound underlying message of appeal to protect and preserve our planet. The Container Corporation of America commissioned the project and spent over half a million dollars on it—an unthinkable fortune in the 1940s and '50s. It was as much a feat of design as it was one of curation—in addition to the stunning original artwork, it also culled the best maps from previous published atlases. The book was given away for free to customers and colleges, ironic in the context of its collector's-item status today: You can score a copy on Amazon starting at $800.

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Rare Book Feast #1: Herbert Bayer's Book of Maps from Nate Burgos on Vimeo.

"Each part of the world the atlas covers is a world of itself." Nate Burgos

The series is a part of design webliography project Design Feast and was directed and produced by Joe Giovenco.


This post also appears on Brain Pickings.
Images: Nate Burgos

via Swiss Mis

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Maria Popova is the editor of Brain Pickings. She writes for Wired UK and GOOD, and is an MIT Futures of Entertainment Fellow.

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