The learned (and pricey) hand of Michelangelo

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In December, the new book ‘Michelangelo: La Dotta Mano’ will go on exhibit for a few days in New York. The book, which weighs 61 pounds and measures 18 by 28 inches, will be on view in the New York Public Library’s Bill Blass Public Catalog Room from Dec. 2-8 before being whisked off to the rare-books division.

‘La Dotta Mano’ (translated as ‘the learned hand’) includes reproductions of drawings by Michelangelo, original photographs by Italian photographer Aurelio Amendola and writing by several Italian scholars, including Giorgio Vasari, Antonio Paolucci and Pina Ragonieri. The book itself, we are told, is a work of art:


The magic of this book is in the details: the cover, which features an exact replica of the Madonna della Scala (Madonna of the Steps), is carved from the same Polvaccio quarries which Michelangelo himself used in his work. And the book’s measurements comply with the Fibonacci Sequence and Golden Ratio, which have been used throughout the ages in architecture, sculpture and painting to represent the universal law of harmony.

The whole thing is a project of Italian publisher FMR to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Michelango’s beginning work on the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel. The cover, pictured above, can be seen in more detail in the book’s Web showcase; the carving is nestled in a velvet binding and must be must be a bit heavy to open.

While this particular book is definitely heading to the rare-books collection, ‘Michelangelo: La Dotta Mano’ will be printed -- and, um, carved and bound in velvet -- in a very limited-edition run. There will be just 99 copies, available for $130,000 each.

I’d totally get you one, but I already put the perfect gift for you on layaway at Kmart.

-- Carolyn Kellogg