It’s the stretch Escalade of 17th-century cartographic tomes. At a whopping six-by-three feet (when closed), the Klencke Atlas, the world’s largest book (as opposed to the longest, which the Internet says is a Chinese encyclopedia in 11,000-plus volumes), will be making its first public appearance with its pages open this spring as part of an exhibition of maps at the British Library.
Though huge, the Atlas contains only 37 (very, very large) maps on 39 sheets, which depict the continents and assorted European states as engraved by Blaen Hondius and others. The book is said to have been a gift from Dutch merchant Yohannes Klencke to Charles II upon his restoration to the throne of England in 1660 (no word on whether Klencke also provided the world’s largest bookshelf to store the thing). The book was later gifted to the British Museum by King George III in 1828 as part of a larger collection of topographical materials. It has remained there, enjoying its own restoration and rebinding in the late 1950s, and is finally (finally!) getting dusted off for its exhibition.