The Madman’s Library

The Strangest Books, Manuscripts and Other Literary Curiosities from History

Edward Brooke-Hitching

There are some really weird books in the world. Some, like the Voynich Manuscript and the Egyptian Book of the Dead are somewhat familiar. But these are only the tip of the iceberg. Brooke-Hitching examines categories of unique and bizarre books (and book adjacent items), including the largest and smallest, fakes and frauds, mystical religious texts, scientific curiosities and a fun list of truly ridiculous book titles. He looks at books with such small type that it ruined the eyesight of the printers, China’s 1400s Yongle Encyclopedia (the largest collection of information until Wikipedia), a yearly guidebook of the prostitutes in London, bejeweled books and ones written on scraps of toilet paper. Every page is fascinating and will have you wanting to know more about each one. You too may find yourself scouring the used book sites for copies of Sun-beams May Be Extracted from Cucumbers, But the Process is Tedious, English as She is Spoke (an English phrase book written by a non-English speaker),  and Nuclear War, What’s In it For You?