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Image: Sculpture book
Bebeto Matthews  /  AP
Michael Inman, left, curator of rare books, and Myriam deArteni, exhibition conservator, turn the pages of "Michelangelo: La Dotta Mano," a volume of photograph's of the Renaissance master's sculptures by Aurelio Amendola, during an exclusive press preview at the New York Public Library.
updated 11/25/2008 4:42:08 PM ET 2008-11-25T21:42:08

It's billed as the world's most expensive, most beautiful new book.

Valued at well over $100,000, a 62-pound handmade tome depicting the life and work of Michelangelo has arrived at the New York Public Library, fresh from publication in Italy.

The velvet- and marble-bound book will go on public display next Tuesday.

It takes six months to make each book, using Italian artisan skills dating to the Renaissance. The copy on display was donated to the library, but more than 20 books have been sold.

"I love books," Marilena Ferrari, the Italian publisher who produced the extravagance, said in a telephone interview from Bologna, Italy, where she's president of a company called FMR, which publishes fine books about art.

"Books are being destroyed by the Internet, they're losing their identity — it's the modern, Internet version of burning books," she said. "Today, things last so little before they disappear."

The book, titled "La Dotta Mano" or "the learned hand," has a front cover made of white marble from Michelangelo's favorite quarry, in Carrara. The binding is covered with a red silk velvet handmade by the same Italian shop that made the main stage curtains at The Metropolitan Opera and Milan's Teatro Alla Scala.

The book is filled with photographs of Michelangelo's drawings and sculptures. The text is by Michelangelo biographer Giorgio Vasari, with essays by the director of the Vatican Museums, Antonio Paolucci.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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