Most of us will never get to handle the real copies of the Hengwrt Chaucer or the Book of Hours made for Jeanne of Navarre, but this book gets you pretty close, with Christopher de Hamel describing how each book looks and feels (though smell, on reflection, is lacking), and even how they’re stored and the reading rooms he visited to handle them. He describes where each manuscript has been, too, and what’s brought it to wherever it now lives. There’s a lot of detail, much of it focusing on the brilliant illuminations of some of these manuscripts (meaning that manuscripts without illuminations that nonetheless have great literary value are missed out), with a lot of black and white reproductions, and a few glossy full colour inserts.
I found it fascinating: it probably depends on whether this is something you’re interested in. I found it one of those restful reads where I could let a lot of the information wash over me: interesting at the time, but I don’t need to know it. (Unlike, say, specific examples of post-mating, prezygotic reproductive barriers. Did you know that various species of North American field crickets are reproductively isolated with each other because, though they can mate, the sperm fails to fertilise the eggs in heterospecific pairs? Now you know, or at least, it’s washed over you. I need to know it until the 11th June.)
Anyway, the point is, I really enjoyed it, though I doubt I’ve retained even half of the information. It can be a bit dense if this isn’t your interest, though.