And what went into creating this mammoth of literature.
Since the invention of the printing press, the world has become very well acquainted with the printed document. From production printing to black and white transaction printing, we see some form of printed documentation on a daily basis. But the world of printing still has a few surprises up its sleeves, and still has the capacity to amaze us. One such amazing piece of printing is the world’s largest book.
Anyone who has read Tolstoy’s War and Peace probably believes that they have indeed encountered the biggest book in history, but the world’s largest book is not measured in pages, but in physical size. Measuring a staggering 5 by 7 feet, around 1.5 by 2 metres, this book is the largest ever to be published. And, just so that it can truly claim to be the biggest book available, it is not one of a kind, but is available for purchase to anyone who can afford its substantial price-tag of around R300 000.
For those with coffee tables big enough to support this amazing, 60 kilogram, photographic journal, the book is printed on demand using nearly 4 litres of ink and a roll of paper as long as a rugby field.
The book, called Butan: A Visual Odyssey Across the Last Himalayan Kingdom, is the brainchild of Michael Hawley. Hawley first came up with the concept when he thought of the convenience of being able to change one’s wallpaper with the ease of turning a page. His solution was to create a wall-sized book.
However, the book itself is far more than mere novelty. Butan is an attempt to create a significant photographic document of a stunning part of the world’s geography. Hawley felt as if all prior expeditions struggled to properly document their findings photographically. The size of his book meant that pictures of people could be printed life-size, and that small details in landscapes would not go unnoticed.
Understanding the seriousness of Hawley’s vision, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the MIT/Microsoft iCampus initiative funded the four years of expeditions necessary to sufficiently populate the book’s rich content.
Knowing that a feat like this can be managed sheds new light on the black and white transaction printing and production printing that is available to us today. These types of printing represent a world whose only limits are those of our imaginations.