I came across a BBC documentary from 1980 about Hieronymus Bosch. There is a scene where the narrator is in his study and we can see the books on his table, I would like to find what the biggest book is on the bottom, ideally ISBN or author's name. Picture below:

enter image description here

It's just the spine of the book, which is not ideal. However we can make out the font and color, which seem rather distinctive. Perhaps someone familiar with the scholarship around Bosch will recognize this book. Also, it would have had to been written before 1980, clearly.

Any help appreciated.

Note: I suffered through the credits of the documentary but there are only special thanks to museums and the collection owners, no mentions of his books.

  • I wonder if that is the title or the author...
    – virolino
    Commented Nov 17, 2022 at 7:26
  • Also, it seems that in the image we can see the dust jacket, not the cover - that might make the search a bit more difficult.
    – virolino
    Commented Nov 17, 2022 at 8:29
  • You might be able to shed some light on this if you contact BBC on the matter. It is likely that the people involved in the documentary are no longer in active duty, but they are likely to have some "databases" on various issues. On the joking side (or not), contact the museums listed in the credits. Quite tedious work, I guess, but if it is important it might be worth it.
    – virolino
    Commented Nov 17, 2022 at 8:44
  • @virolino "I wonder if that is the title or the author..." There is no evidence that the painter Hieronymus Bosch (the subject of the documentary) ever wrote books. He also didn't leave any statements about his work, nor diaries or letters.
    – Tsundoku
    Commented Nov 17, 2022 at 14:55
  • @Tsundoku: thank you for the clarification. I did not know that.
    – virolino
    Commented Nov 17, 2022 at 17:52

1 Answer 1


Based on the size of the book and the font on the spine, I think it is Hieronymus Bosch by Charles de Tolnay, which was first published in German in 1937 and which has been reprinted many times since then (and translated into English, French and probably a few other languages).

The 1965 reprint, for example, was in two volumes and was 33 cm long on its longest side/edge. The 1965 English translation had 451 pages. This seems consistent with the size of the book we see in the frame from the the video.

Then there's the font on the spine. I haven't found images of the spine of Charles de Tolnay's book, but the font on the 1984 German reprint seems to match what we see in the video. See the image below.

Cover of Charles de Tolnay's Hieronymus Bosch, with short strokes extending from some of the letters of the title

The font comparison is easier when looking at an earlier frame from the same documentary (The Mysteries of Hieronymus Bosch):

picture of a stack of books with the complete spines visible

It seems that the same font was used in the 1965 reprint, based on the image provided on Amazon Germany.

  • 1966 Reynal & Co edition on the Internet Archive. Commented Nov 17, 2022 at 11:12
  • 3
    In the "earlier still" it's possible to make out "TOLNAY" at the right-hand end of the spine. The orientation of the letters shows that this is the top of the spine, so it's (most likely) the German edition, since on an English edition the title would go the other way. Commented Nov 17, 2022 at 16:40

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