From ‘Sex’ to ‘The Sistine Chapel,’ Callaway bets on the most expensive gift books ever made

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Click this Callaway Arts  image to visit the descriptive website for this new book. Scroll down about half way on the page and you’ll find a fascinating 3-minute micro-documentary about how these books were produced.

Last week, I wrote about Americans’ overwhelming love of books—especially paper books.

Here’s more evidence that this love affair with printed media is global.

Back in 1992, Callaway Arts & Entertainment astonished the publishing industry with the success of its coffee-table book Sex featuring Madonna in artfully erotic photographs. Initially decried by many critics as salacious—that book went on to sell more than 1.5 million copies! 

Once again, Callaway is capturing the world’s attention. On November 1, 2020, the Callaway team will release what is surely the most expensive gift book set ever presented to the general public. (Throughout art history, of course, some individually crafted volumes have been produced with higher price tags, including illuminated and jewel-studded books. In contrast, hundreds of sets of these books are available to anyone willing to pay the purchase price.)

If you hope to get one of the 600 English-language copies of this three-volume set as a Christmas gift this year, you’ll have to make a major investment. The price tag is $22,000! Callaway also is warning that those 600 copies are likely to sell out almost immediately.

Clearly, the world still is fascinated with the artistic challenges of translating masterpieces into the form we commonly call “a book.” Of course, these books have been exceptional at every step in the production process! According to Callaway’s announcement: These three enormous volumes, totaling 822 pages, are bound in silk with silver, gold and platinum embossing on the spines. The images were made with state-of-the-art gigapixel photography. A team of photographers made more than 270,000 digital images over the course of 67 consecutive nights. Then, those photographs and the prints on the book’s pages were color-matched against the originals with 99% color fidelity. On some fold-out pages of these books, portions of the frescoes are reproduced at 1:1 scale so readers can see every brush stroke.

The worldwide press run is limited to 1,999 copies, and only 600 sets are available in English. By agreement with the Vatican, the work will never be reprinted.

Got sticker shock? Well, there is a little saving, Callaway says. There’s no charge for shipping, handling or taxes and, “Each set will be expedited via air courier to the final destination in a reusable, locked shipping case that perfectly safeguards the ensemble in transit and in storage.”

Care to learn more?

ENJOY THE VIDEO—Callaway has posted a fascinating 3-minute video about halfway down this web page about the book. And, yes, it’s worth visiting that page, then scrolling down to watch this micro-documentary about the making of these books.

COMING IN 2021—Callaway already has announced a big 2021 project, as well: The Beatles—Get Back, which is intended as a companion volume to the upcoming 2021 Peter Jackson documentary about the Beatles’ creation of their Let It Be album. Compared with the Sistine book, this one is a bargain! Callaway already is accepting advance orders at $60 a copy.


About David Crumm

David Crumm is founding Editor of Front Edge Publishing. Nationally, he is known as a veteran journalist—a top writer and editor—with experience both in the U.S. and overseas. He is based in Canton, Michigan, where he also serves as Editor of Read the Spirit online magazine. His columns on trends in media appear twice a month on our Front Edge Publishing website.