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Can a Book That Costs $22,000 Be Better Than a Trip to Italy?

If you love art, maybe.

Artwork on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel

If money were no object …

If I were a billionaire — or even a millionaire — something that I will never be, I would purchase The Sistine Chapel book, released on November 1, 2020, a joint effort of the Vatican Museums, Scripta Maneant, an Italian publisher, and Callaway Arts and Entertainment, an American publishing firm. 

Why would I need to have such a large bank balance to get a single book? 

Because, friends, that book will cost 22,000 American dollars. 

Why not just go to Italy?

It might cost a lot less just to travel to Italy and stay near Vatican City where I could wander into the chapel and lift my eyes to the tall ceilings on a daily basis. There are a few problems with that scenario. One, in the era of COVID, international travel might not be allowed, and even if it isn’t prohibited, I’m not sure travel to another country is a wise move. 

Even if I did get to go, it’s hard to intently study the artwork that floats more than sixty-feet above me. My neck would be kinked into a painful gawking position after hours of observation, and from that distance, I would never be able to take in the details of all nine of the massive ceiling panels. 

Pre-Pandemic, more than 5 million people a year visited the Sistine Chapel. With those crowds, it would be impossible to gaze intensely at each work of art. You simply can’t stand still, glued to one spot, gaping upward, when crowds are pushing around you. 

Why so pricey?

The Sistine Chapel is a book that took over five years to create. Photographers took over 270,000 photos of the renowned artwork during the evenings when the Museum was closed to visitors, a process that took 67 nights.

Those photos were invisibly seamed together using special imaging software and reproduced in amazing 1:1 proportions. The colors were captured to a 99.4% accuracy thanks to a new digitization process. Then the stunning art was laid onto pages that are 17" wide and 24" tall, giving you a detailed perspective of art like you've never before experienced.

Nicholas Callaway, owner of the American publishing house, Callaway Arts and Entertainment and partner in The Sistine Chapel book venture, said, 

“You’re seeing the art at the same size, at arm’s length, as a viewer as if you were a bird sitting on Michelangelo’s shoulder.” 
Woman with a bird on her shoulder

Precious and few

The publication of The Sistine Chapel is a one-time venture. This collector’s set will never again be reprinted. Just 1,999 copies are being produced, and just 600 of those are printed in English. 

Made with the finest craftsmanship of Italian bookmakers, The Sistine Chapel is presented as a three-volume set: The Frescoes, The Ceiling, and The Last Judgment. The books are bound in white calf’s leather and titled with metallic ink. Even the endpapers are works of art. They’re debossed to replicate the mosaic tile pattern on the floors of the Sistine Chapel. 

Oversized and opulent, these art books come in a boxed set (in case you’re looking for a gift..) Each volume weighs 25 lbs. 

The publishers hope that museums, universities, and libraries will purchase a copy. As Nicholas Callaway says, 

“It’s a work for the world …available to everyone for generations to come.” 

Stairway to heaven 

Even if I can’t go to Italy to see the Sistine Chapel, and even though I can’t afford a personal copy of this awesome new book, I hope that a museum or a university library within driving distance of me will purchase one of those six-hundred precious copies so that I can gaze awestruck at each page, amazed by the genius that enables such works to be created. 

Michelangelo once said,

“Death and love are the two wings that bear the good man to heaven.”

He was right about that, but he probably should have included that art bears us to heaven on a site-seeing trip, too. 


Melissa Gouty has no connection to the art-world and definitely has no formal artistic training of any kind. She only knows that there’s a clear connection between creativity and art. Looking at paintings, photography, sculptures, and any kind of color and creative endeavor makes her spirits soar. 


Read more about amazing books in Book Talk, or discover more about the connection between creativity and art in A Writer's Life.

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