The designation of “beautiful books” is intrinsically subjective. From the most ornate decorations to the most minimal typography, the concept of beauty covers a wide variety of styles, subjects, and tastes. This exhibit highlights a digitization project which was begun around 2009 as a way, not to define beauty, but to draw attention to books with unique or noteworthy features in Stanford’s Special Collections – books which could be considered beautiful.

The collection represented here includes fine examples of color and woodcut illustrations, astronomical diagrams, typographical innovation, fine bindings, and more. The books are artifacts of multiple points throughout history, from the earliest printing in the late 1400’s to the 20th century. While topics include history, astronomy, science, religion, and travel, the cultural perspective represented is unquestionably Western European. As such, this exhibit represents just a part of the array of beautiful books held by Stanford’s libraries from all cultural traditions. We hope you will be inspired to explore further in the online catalog: