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BEAUTIFUL COFFEE-TABLE BOOKS

pages du livre Hockney

While the concept of a "coffee-table book" was once frowned upon, this oversized book that elevates any interior and expands one's horizons, has gained popularity in recent years. But how did it become the must-have to buy or gift of the season?

Judging a book by its cover
Last January, the influencer Maddy Burciaga received heat after having promoted on social media "fake books" - cardboard boxes with the logos and names of major luxury brands - intended to decorate her home. A reinvention gone too far of the "coffee-table book", known for its stunning photographs depicting every interest - from fashion to design to travel - meant to add a finishing touch to your coffee table, entertain guests and inspire conversations. So, what was all the controversy about? Pushing the notion of the outward to a breaking point, and thus emptying culture of its substance. Even though for some this has become the norm, there is more to a book cover than meets the eye. "The content is very important," Prosper Assouline, co-founder of the eponymous publishing house, told New York Magazine last year. "But 99% of the time, a book is closed in your apartment. So, if it's ugly, that's a problem. It has to be beautiful." There is no denying that the image is most sought-after. To this end, there is a direct correlation between reproduction rights of the greatest photographs and the steep price tag of these high-end decorative objects. Needless to say, they are worth the investment! These sleek and alluring books are above all cultural compendiums, taking the readers through a rich journey of learning and exploration... as well as revealing their owner's interests along the way. In short: "tell me what you read, I'll tell you who you are."

Luxury culture, sophisticated luxury
The Assouline publishing house, founded by husband and wife Martine and Prosper Assouline, proves that blending luxury and culture is possible. She is the former director of communications for a ready-to-wear house, and he was the founder and artistic director of an advertising agency, both having collaborated with major luxury brands. Together, they share a unique vision of what's chic, which they have been illustrating in their books since 1995. Striving to create "the first brand of luxury culture", the duo focuses a great deal of attention on both content and form, whether in publishing works that interest them or commissioned by brands such as Chanel and Dior, but also Coke and Mattel. On top of their impeccable taste, they draw endless source of inspiration from the past as depicted for example in their tomes celebrating the heritage of the most prominent fashion houses. Beautiful and lavish books, anchored in the past while looking forward, with a certain je ne sais quoi.

From the beginning, Assouline knew how to stake out a place of its own in the publishing world, doing so again, when in 2003 their books were featured in the window-displays of Bergdorf Goodman's famous New York flagship. This first retail store was a turning point, forever associating Assouline books with luxury and fashion, and ultimately viewed as object d'art for the modern library.

Monumental or Original, a collector's item
Revered publishing houses have exhibited great ingenuity over the years to reinvent the "book". Iconic, "Helmut Newton. Sumo" published by Taschen in 1999 was a milestone, impressing with its extraordinary dimensions (50x70 cm), 464 pages and almost 35 kilos. This masterpiece, limited to 10,000 signed and numbered copies, even inspired Philip Starck to design a stand to display its images. The venture was such a huge success, that Taschen continued to publish XL monographs in limited editions, and in celebration of its twentieth anniversary introduced "Helmut Newton. Sumo. 20th anniversary edition." A remarkable ode to a legendary photographer.

While some collect giant books, others prefer originality and style. At Assouline, the Ultimate Collection reveals a variety of topics, from fashion and jewelry, fine art and culture from around the world and across history. It stands out for its traditional techniques of bookmaking, hand-bound high-quality papers marked with the imprint of the artisan. Every compilation of pages is presented in refined cases, delivered with a signature tote bag and white gloves for delicate handling. Connoisseurs will be truly impressed!

Getting your hands on that singular literary creation becomes an on-going quest, that can ultimately lead to building one's own collection. From one discovery to the next, the options are plenty...Publishing houses know well how to keep up this excitement and pique curiosities, by releasing than and again unexpected works and classic anthologies. And, although technology plays a significant role in our lives, recent figures demonstrate that printed books are still favored in comparison with e-books, signaling a bright future for these exceptional works to adorn our apartments.


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