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The Infinity of List Hardcover – 20 Sep 2009

5.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 408 pages
  • Publisher: Rizzoli/Universal; 01 edition (20 Sept. 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0847832961
  • ISBN-13: 978-0847832965
  • Product Dimensions: 17.6 x 3 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 453,639 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


'This might be the perfect third book for the desert island: the only one which could be installed there along with Shakespeare and the Bible and find an equal number of fascinated, disparate readers. It is the ultimate dippable book' The Tablet. (The Tablet)

'A characteristic product of this extraordinary writer and polymath: learned, sparkling, insightful, provocative, packed full of intriguing and arcane information' Mary Beard in Guardian. (Guardian)

'A lavish, curious catalogue about catalogues . Eco has always had an eclectic, esoteric mind, and a meander around the byways of his brain is a joy indeed' Scotland on Sunday. (Scotland on Sunday)

'Flaunting his extraordinary erudition but flaunting it modestly ... the book is gorgeously illustrated, a beautiful object ... its creamy pages are a pleasure to turn, its various typefaces are not just elegant but appropriate to the needs of the text, its illustrations a joy to study, its translation impeccable' Gilbert Adair in the Spectator. (Spectator) --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

From the Inside Flap

In the history of Western culture we find lists of saints, ranks of soldiers, accounts of grotesque creatures, inventories of medicinal plants and hoards of treasure. There are practical lists which are finite, such as catalogues of books in a library; but there are others which are intended to suggest countless magnitudes, and thereby arouse in us a dizzying sense of the infinite. This infinity of lists is no coincidence: a culture prefers enclosed, stable forms when it is sure of its own identity, whereas when faced with a jumbled accumulation of ill-defined phenomena, it starts making lists.
The aesthetics of lists runs throughout the history of art and literature. We see it at work not only in ancient bestiaries, the celestial hosts of angels or the naturalist collections of the sixteenth century. We find it also more obliquely from Homer to Joyce and Pynchon, and from the treasures of Gothic cathedrals to the fantastical landscapes of Bosch and cabinets of curiosities, until we get to Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst in the twentieth century.
In this beautifully illustrated edition, Umberto Eco reflects on how the idea of catalogues has changed over the centuries and how, from one period to another, it has expressed the spirit of the times. His essay is accompanied by a literary anthology and a wide selection of works of art illustrating the texts presented. This new volume is a companion to On Beauty (2004) and On Ugliness (2007). --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
'The Infinity of Lists' is a marvellous artefact. Flicking through its lavishly illustrated pages reveals the arcane world which can also be found in Eco's novels: gods and monsters, ancient landscapes and mysterious artefacts.

Eco guides us through the intriguing history of the list or catalogue in art and science from the captains of the Greek ships in Homer's Iliad through to Warhol's soup tins.

Throughout we see beautiful reproductions of the works of art chosen to illustrate his essay along with extracts from many poems, plays, novels and songs.

If you want to stimulate your imagination I can't recommend this book highly enough - a great reference and a wonderful thing to just look at.
2 Comments 26 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As an artist i found this book excellent to help with research plus Umberto Eco writing is so beautiful
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Format: Hardcover
Normally a great fan of The august Emberto Uco, I was rather disappointed to discover that, after a promisingly short contents page, this book just seems to go on forever. Furthermore, rather than indulging in the kind of sophisticated plot we have come to expect from the great Uco, it just seems to list things. Is the master losing his touch or am I too preoccupied with the cost of Swedish Herring? No he is still outstanding!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.6 out of 5 stars 16 reviews
57 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Grad school revisited 8 Dec. 2010
By rags of light - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This book, a birthday present, revived the literature I once knew well and have over the years let slip away. As an essay on the function of listing, it is extraordinary; as an anthology of Western literature it is invaluable, as an art book, it is beautiful, but as a review of what was once known and is now almost forgotten, it is priceless. Anyone who thinks great literature is out of date or corny, or thinks the day of real books is over, should hold this book in his or her hands for an hour. Its "weight," both physical and intellectual, makes a "kindle" seem flimsy and as ephemeral as an eight-track.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good text, loosely bound with pictures 13 Oct. 2013
By Jose F - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an eclectic and fascinating trip on the meaning of lists in literature history. Eco's wit and interests are present. However, some chapters and excerpts look weakly assembled and superficial. The graphical content is rich, and sometimes outstanding, but has only an illustrative function: the book is about lists in literature. Many pictures are not even cited in the text, but may have some relation with the cited excerpts. It is not as in the volumes of History of Beauty and Ugliness, where pictorial representations where thoroughly discussed. Beware: graphical content has some overlap with "On Ugliness". Book design: beautiful, it may be a nice gift for an Eco's fan.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I want to sound really smart... 8 May 2013
By Ma'at - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Well, seriously, who doesn't want to sound like a scholar on these reviews? Umberto Eco is some kind of genius. He's that kind of person that you either think of as mysterious or seriously confusing. My camp is right in between the two. Every time I get one of his books, I have a notebook next to me, ready to take notes. Oh and then after the first half of the first chapter, the book goes back into my bookshelf for future moments of egotistical reading.
The Infinity of Lists: An Illustrated Essay, confused me at first. From some of the other reviews that I read before ordering this book, I thought it would be a list of some of the best literature along with some pretty pictures. It is. But it's more than that. Like all of Eco's books, there seems to be some hidden message to glean from each painting, picture, pithy bit of writing...and there probably is. But that's why we buy his books. We know that he writes them, or puts them together to challenge our minds; to challenge our understanding of the world that we live in.
In short, I've read this book, but boy do I have to do that a few more times to really get all of it, and that's something I look forward to. In a few years.
42 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eco's Latest Literary Trend 19 Nov. 2009
By AB - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In 2007 Bompiani published a similar non-fiction work by Umberto Eco, "Dall'Albero al Labrinto: Studi Storici sul Segno e l'Interpretazione," that investigated the histories of sign and interpretation alongside the history of encyclopedistics. Its aim was to more fully examine organization as a human phenomenon. "The Infinity of Lists," I believe, continues this examination by identifying the nature of lists across time. In short, Eco appears to be following a particular trend with his recent research - one that explores our immense fascination with the organization of content and its many forms.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars ECCO AT HIS BEST 26 Jan. 2012
By J. craig - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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