Books: A Christmas Shelf: Bigness and Beauty

A Christmas Shelf

More of everything—particularly 'big, rich, fat, square Christmas books—seems to be the order of the season. Many are bought at the Frankfurt Book Fair from enterprising European publishers and imported wholesale. Several contain perfunctory yet prolix texts by scholars who take the money but regard the work as intellectual slumming; and the pictures are stuck in at random like plums in a Christmas pudding. Each year, though, a few more big books show encouraging signs of aim and editing. Still others are notable for size, subject matter, outrageous pricing and,...