You can get a ton of gift books for $6,000 - or you can get one 75-pound one.
"Modern Art: Revolution and Painting" is the most expensive new book to be marketed in the United States, claims publisher ArtMedia. And perhaps the heaviest.
The book covers the past 200 years of painting, with 265 works by Cezanne, Matisse, Monet, Picasso, Rivera, van Gogh and others reproduced on its 544 thick pages. It's handcrafted, with covers of brown leather over wood that measure 28-by-40 inches when open - large enough to display some of the paintings in their original size, or almost.
And just so this behemoth of a book doesn't reduce your coffee table to firewood, it comes with its own lacquered hardwood stand.
The Italian publisher has produced 1,000 English-language copies, 200 of which are available to the U.S. market.
More information is available at the book's Web site www.modernart-thebook.com and by calling 800-437-7840.
For those whose gift budget might not approach $6,000, there are plenty of beautiful books for considerably less - as little as $14.95 - on topics from photography to famous artists, fashion to firefighting, and fruit to "The Far Side."
In "Leonardo da Vinci" (Taschen, $150), Frank Zollner and Johannes Nathan examine the life and work of the 15th-century Italian painter, sculptor, scientist and inventor in a massive 696-page volume that measures nearly 12-by-18 inches. Letters, diary entries and writings provide biographical information. All da Vinci's paintings are shown and analyzed in detail, some on two-page spreads, providing a closer view of "Mona Lisa" and "St. John the Baptist" than you'd ever get at the Louvre.
A coast-to-coast tour of "These United States" (Rizzoli, $175) is on the agenda in 220 color photos by Jake Rajs. This limited edition of 5,000 signed and numbered copies opens to 32 inches, providing broad views of the American scene - from Miami to Maui to Mount McKinley, Little Bighorn to Big Sur, the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Golden Gate, and Maine to "Main Street America" - that is, Route 66.
"American Route 66: Home on the Road" (Museum of New Mexico Press, $45) is Jane Bernard and Polly Brown's photo chronicle of their three-year journey along the famous road that connects Chicago and Los Angeles. Comments by locals accompany 116 photos: Larry Shafer stands at the pump ready to fill 'er up at his Speed-a-Way gas station in Miami, Okla.; Dot's Mini Museum in Vega, Texas, displays a pair of high red boots and a weather-beaten Route 66 road sign; and Elvis impersonator Terry Maples poses in front of a sign for his Italian restaurant and show in Cuba, Mo.
"The Complete Far Side" (Andrews McMeel, $135) by Gary Larson is a two-volume, slipcased set that features every "The Far Side" cartoon ever syndicated - more than 4,000. The strip, which first appeared in 1980 and ran 14 years, was populated by characters ranging from prehistoric creatures to aliens, with cows walking upright, talking goldfish, TV-watching insects and nerds being - well, nerds. Included are readers' letters of praise, complaint and - not unexpected - sheer puzzlement.
Another two-volume, slipcased set,"The Art and Spirit of Paris" (Abbeville, $385), covers more than 2,000 years of Parisian art and culture. General editor Michel Laclotte has assembled text by 11 contributors that describes how painting, architecture, fashion, photography and the decorative arts have shaped the city's history and society. Throughout its 1,600 pages are nearly 1,500 images, including several three-page foldouts.
Less ambitious, but no less worthy, is "Paris: City of Art" (Vendome, $85) by Jean-Marie Perouse de Montclos. Its 700 pages and 800 illustrations cover 2,000 years of cultural history as it explores the art and architecture of Paris and the city's evolution into an important cultural center. Works featured include Degas' "The Dance Class," Rodin's "Eternal Spring" and, of course, Eiffel's tower.
In "Diaspora: Homelands in Exile" arperCollins, $100), French photographer Frederic Brenner documents Jewish life during the past 25 years in places around the world - including India and Israel, Moscow and Morocco, Argentina and Austria, New York and the Netherlands. Volume 1 of the slipcased set contains 260 black-and-white photographs. In Volume 2, 60 of the images are repeated, accompanied by essays, commentary and quotes by Brenner, Itzhak Perlman, Betty Friedan, Norman Mailer and others.
What's old is new in "The Ancient Egypt Pop-up Book" (Universe, $29.95) by James Putnam, which resurrects the land of pyramids, mummies and King Tut in 100 color illustration and several pop-ups, pullouts and foldouts. Pyramids large and small pop up, as does Tut's gold funerary mask, which can be lifted to reveal his 3-D mummified head. The walls of a wealthy family's villa emerge from the pages, as does a staircase leading to its second floor. And up pops a boat, with movable oar and folding sail, like those used for shipping goods along the Nile.
Another bygone era - but slightly more recent - is recalled in "Art Deco: 1910-1939" (Bulfinch, $65), edited by Charlotte Benton et al. Essays describe the evolution and impact of the Art Deco movement, while 450 illustrations provide examples of its streamlined, futuristic look - in architecture, furniture, industrial design, jewelry, household items and a couple of World's Fairs. There's beauty even in the unglamorous, a meat slicer whose graceful, rounded lines in aluminum and steel belie its utilitarian purpose.
One week in the life of everyday Americans is the focus of the photo album "America 24-7" (DK, $50) by Rick Smolan and David Elliot Cohen. During a week in May, 25,000 digital photographers, from amateurs to Pulitzer Prize-winners, set out to capture life at home, work and play. The 1,200 photos selected for the book include children playing stickball in an Alaskan fishing village; a dizzying montage of road signs at the intersection of three major highways in Breezewood, Pa.; and a handler at a New Orleans zoo examining the huge foot of an Asian elephant.
"Tuscany: Inside the Light" (Barnes & Noble-Sterling, $30) celebrates the Italian countryside and its people in 75 color photos by Joel Meyerowitz and commentary by Maggie Barrett. The images are divided into four seasons: winter shows a table set with a fruit bowl, lighted candle, wine glasses, and dinner plates ready to be filled; spring features a three-page foldout of a field with grassy, rolling hills; in summer, a young girl in the street poses for the photographer as neighbors curiously look on; and red plastic crates lie along a path, ready for the autumn grape harvest.
Grapes and other fruits, from mangoes to melons, kiwis to kumquats, are ripe for the harvest in "Fruit: An Illustrated History" (Firefly, $60). Text by Peter Blackburne-Maze provides a botanical and social history of fruits, from ancient times to today - how and where they originated, how they spread to other regions, and their place in lore and popular culture. Accompanying all these fruity facts are 300 color illustrations from England's Royal Horticultural Society.
Tailor-made for the fashion-conscious is "Shocking! The Art and Fashion of Elsa Schiaparelli" (Yale University Press, $65) by Dilys E. Blum. Text describes the rapid rise of the Italian-born Schiaparelli to become a major name in fashion during the 1930s and a favorite among celebrities. Several of the book's 300 photos display Schiaparelli designs, including gowns, dresses, jackets, shoes, hats, gloves and jewelry.
If you wonder what happened in the world of rock 'n' roll on any given day since 1950, wonder no more: Just open "Rock & Roll: Year by Year" (DK, $50) by Luke Crampton and Dafydd Reed. This illustrated daily almanac of rock music history contains 600 pages and hundreds of photos, many in color. It starts on Jan. 1, 1950, when Sam Phillips opened his Memphis storefront recording studio, and goes to Dec. 23, 2002, with reaction to the death of Joe Strummer of The Clash on the previous day.
There's now an illustrated, large-format version of James M. McPherson's 1988 Pulitzer Prize-winning history of the Civil War. "Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Years" (Oxford University Press, $65) boasts 700 illustrations selected by McPherson, including paintings, maps, and period photos and cartoons. The narrative covers 20 years, from the Mexican War (1845) to Gen. Lee's surrender; and although the text has been abridged, McPherson has added detailed captions to the illustrations.
Sports fans who enjoy surprise endings can relive 50 of them in "Not Till the Fat Lady Sings: The Most Dramatic Sports Finishes of All Time" (Triumph, $29.95) by Les Krantz, which includes a DVD of 20 of those events narrated by Jim McKay. Statistics and quotes accompany stories about unexpected outcomes in baseball, football, basketball, hockey and other sports. Thrill-providers include Doug Flutie, Kirk Gibson, Joe Frazier, Michael Jordan, the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team and a four-legged sports hero named Affirmed.
Huge bright-red padded covers embedded with a gold firefighter's medallion make "Firefighters" ugh Lauter Levin, $75) hard to miss. Editor JoEllen L. Kelly, in conjunction with the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, has assembled this 350-page history of firefighting, with hundreds of new and archival photographs, and stories about the firefighting experience: training, apparatus, volunteers, hazardous materials, and rescue and medical services.
And for $6,000, the price of "Modern Art," you can get 401 copies of "New York New York" (Rizzoli, $14.95) and still have a few dollars left over. Richard Berenholtz's photo album of the city was published in 2002 in an 18-inch-wide volume that cost $275. That book and price have been shrunk into this diminutive version slightly bigger than a postcard. So even though Broadway might not quite live up to its name while Little Italy does, mini "New York New York" still contains the original's 220 photos, including gatefolds.
Among other worthy choices:
Art and architecture
Generously illustrated books devoted to the works of individual artists include "Botero Women" (Rizzoli, $80), edited by Paola Gribaudo; "Botticelli" (Skira, $65) by Daniel Arasse and Pier Luigi de Vecchi; "Marc Chagall" (Abrams, $60) by Jean-Michel Foray et al.;
"Giotto: The Frescoes of the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua" (Skira, $85) by Giuseppe Basile; "Goya" (Thames & Hudson, $75) by Werner Hofmann; "El Greco" (NG-Yale University Press, $65) by David Davies and John Elliott;
"Wolf Kahn's America" (Abrams, $45) by Wolf Kahn; "The Thomas Kinkade Story: A 20-Year Chronology of the Artist" (Bulfinch, $50) by Rick Barnett; "Manet and the Sea" (Yale University Press, $65) by Juliet Wilson-Bareau and David C. Degener; "LeRoy Neiman: Five Decades" (Abrams, $75); "John Singer Sargent: The Later Portraits" (Yale University Press, $65) by Richard Osmond and Elaine Kilmurray, the final volume in a trilogy of Sargent's works; and "SuperWarhol" (Skira, $85) by Germano Celant, featuring Andy Warhol's larger works.
"Impressionist Cats and Dogs" (Yale University Press, $30) by James H. Rubin features our four-legged friends in works by Renoir, Monet, Manet and others. Thomas Eakins, Michelangelo, Rubens, and Gainsborough are among the artists represented in "The Beautiful Boy" (Rizzoli, $45), Germaine Greer's look at how young boys are portrayed in art.
"Postcards of the Night" (Museum of New Mexico Press, $34.95) by John A. Jakle reproduces 80 early 20th-century postcards depicting U.S. cities at night. "Album" (Mitchell Beazley, $49.95) is Nick de Ville's illustrated history of record album sleeve art.
Decorative arts from the Renaissance to today appear in more than 3,000 illustrations in "The Elements of Design" (The Free Press, $75), edited by Noel Riley. "Gustav Stickley" (Phaidon, $69.95) by David Cathers features text and 300 illustrations about the life and work of the American furniture maker.
For "The One-Room Schoolhouse" (Universe, $35), Paul Rocheleau took 200 photos of some of the surviving structures in the lower 48 states. Somewhat larger buildings are featured in "McKim, Mead & White: The Masterworks" (Rizzoli, $75) by Samuel G. White and Elizabeth White, with 300 color photos of the 19th-century architects' many important urban structures, including New York's now-demolished Pennsylvania Station.
"Motorcars of the Classic Era" (Abrams, $50) by Michael Furman features 150-plus color photos of Stutzes and Studebakers, Packards and Pierce-Arrows, Bugatis and Brewsters. Classic cars appear also in "Roadside America: 365 Days" (Abrams, $29.95), Lucinda Lewis' chunky, glovebox-size book.
Sports car fans can climb behind the wheel of "Mustang: Forty Years" (Motorbooks, $50), Randy Leffingwell's amply illustrated story of the sporty little Ford; and "Porsche: The Road From Zuffenhausen" (Random House, $75), Dennis Adler's history of the German automaker, with 650-plus photos.
You can park them all in "Ultimate Garages" (Motorbooks, $35.95) by Phil Berg, with dozens of color photos showing that some cars live better than some people.
See what they wore in "The Complete Book of Oscar Fashion" (Reed Press, $29.95) by Reeve Chace, with 75 years of Oscar night outfits, from outstanding to outlandish. In "Hollywood: Dolce & Gabbana" (Assouline, $75), 200 illustrations show the designing duo's duds decorating Diane Lane, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet and others.
"Tiffany in Fashion" (Abrams, $60) by John Loring shows Tiffany jewels in fashion photos by Avedon, Scavullo and others. And in "Gilles Bensimon Photography" (Filipacchi, $75), Salma Hayek, Audrey Hepburn and Catherine Zeta-Jones are among the fashionably photogenic females who have graced the viewfinder of Elle magazine's chief photographer.
"The Story of the West" (DK, $40), edited by Robert M. Utley, chronicles the events and personalities of the American West, with photos, drawings, timelines and sidebars. The story of how the Wright brothers got their careers off the ground is told in "The Wright Brothers Legacy" (Abrams, $37.50), with text by Walt Burton and Owen Findsen, and 240 illustrations.
In "World War I" (DK, $40), H.P. Willmott uses photos, graphics, maps and timelines to illustrate his history of "the war to end all wars." "WWII: The People's Story" (Reader's Digest, $39.95), edited by Nigel Fountain, is an oral history of World War II with 450 illustrations and an audio CD. An oral history of the Holocaust is found in "A Promise to Remember" (Bulfinch, $29.95) by Michael Berenbaum, which includes removable replicas of artifacts and an hour-long audio CD.
Nature and Science
Ken Croswell's "Magnificent Mars" (The Free Press, $60) is an out-of-this-world tour of the Red Planet in text and photos, none showing little green men with antennae. Back home, there's "Smithsonian Earth" (DK, $50), edited by James F. Luhr, with thousands of photos and diagrams about our planet's oceans and deserts, mountains and lowlands, farmland and cities.
"Smithsonian Mammal" (DK, $40), edited by Don E. Wilson, has 500 color wildlife photos of mammals, from aardvarks to zorillas. Text by Peter Harkness is accompanied by 300 rosy illustrations in "The Rose: An Illustrated History" (Firefly, $60). "Winged Migration" (Chronicle, $50) by Jacques Perrin tracks migrating birds throughout the world in flocks of color photos.
"The Beatles: A Private View" (Big Tent, $60) contains more than 200 images by Robert Freeman, the band's official photographer in its early years. The people and places of the American music scene appear in "American Music" (Random House, $75), a photo collection by Annie Leibovitz.
"Phil Stern: A Life's Work" (Powerhouse, $75) is a large slipcased album of 240 photos by the magazine, combat and celebrity photographer. "Lartigue: Album of a Century" (Abrams, $75), edited by Martine D'Astier et al, features the French photographer's work.
"Diane Arbus: Revelations" (Random House, $100) includes an illustrated chronology of the American photographer's life and 200 full-page images of her work. And "Twins" (Aperture, $50) by Mary Ellen Mark contains 80 photographs and twice as many people.
Country music goes pop in "The Country Music Pop-up Book" (Universe, $45) by the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, which features pop-ups of The Ryman Auditorium (home of the Grand Ole Opry) and a guitar with strings. "Lennon Legend" (Chronicle, $40) by James Henke is a slipcased scrapbook of the life of John Lennon, with 40 removable artifacts and a CD of interviews.
"75 Years of the Oscar" (Abbeville Press, $75) by Robert Osborne has 725 photos illustrating the history of the Academy Awards, right up to 2003. There are 400 photos in "Judy Garland" (Bulfinch, $50), John Fricke's anecdotal portrait of the film star and singer.
"Sports of the Times" (St. Martin's Press), edited by William Taaffe and David Fischer, contains major sports stories from The New York Times and 400 photos from its archives.
In "Muhammad Ali: The Glory Years" (Miramax, $45), Felix Dennis and Don Atyeo chronicle the former heavyweight champ's career in text and 300 photos. Classic golf writing and 170 illustrations are found in "Golf's Greatest Moments" (Abrams, $45), edited by Robert Sidorsky.
The living room recliner becomes a vicarious airliner seat through travel books.
"Living in Hungary" (Flammarion, $50) by Jean-Luc Soule, "Living in Dublin" (Thames & Hudson, $45) by Robert O'Byrne, and "The Most Beautiful Villages of Spain" (Thames & Hudson, $40) by Hugh Palmer each have more than 200 color photos and a visitor's guide.
"Tuscany" (Abbeville Press, $45) tours the vineyards, gardens, hill towns and abbeys of northern Italy in 150 color photos by Sonja Bullaty and Angelo Lomeo. "Rajasthan" (Assouline, $65) takes readers to the region of India in 350 vivid color photos by Pauline van Lynden.
"360 Degrees New York" and "360 Degrees London" (Abrams, $24.95 each) by Nick Wood each provide 100 head-spinning color photos and a CD-ROM.