Books you'll never actually read


HOLLY: [opening the door]
"Fred, darling. I'm so glad you could come."

FRED: [entering the apartment and handing her a slim book]
"I brought you a house present. Something for the bookcase"

HOLLY:
"Oh, you're sweet."
[Taking the book, she places it upright on a bare shelf and pauses to admire it]
"Doesn't that look nice?
Give me a cigarette O.J."
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Not that I'm the sort of person to endlessly quote from old movies...Ok, yes I am. 

When I see a book like Francesco Colonna's Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, posed in a living such as mine (above). I think about the preceding exchange from the movie Breakfast at Tiffany's. I've seen the 1999 English translation of this impenetrable 1499 work casually displayed on many a higher-toned coffee table than mine over the years, always as if the owner had just sat it down to answer the door. 

But does anyone actually read it?

For most, the book is appreciated for its fantastical woodcuts and unusual typesetting instead of its convoluted allegorical story line (the title is roughly translated as "Poliphili's Dream of Love and Strife"). Most importantly for gardeners, the eroticism and dreamlike imagery in the book is said by scholars to have influenced the design and decoration of Renaissance gardens such as Bomarzo and Villa d'Este.

Page through an online version of the extremely rare 1499 original here.








Above and below photographs: Bomarzo, also known as Villa Orsini, is in Viterbo, Italy near Rome. Photographs via The Courtauld Institute of Art



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