A mentor and colleague of Mr. Diarist recently sent Mr. D home with a marvelous book neither of us had ever seen.  It’s Biciclette, by Richard Balantine and Richard Grant.

No wonder we hadn’t seen it; it’s in Italian. But one doesn’t have to read Italian to enjoy every page.  This fantastic volume has it all — and what you don’t get from the text won’t prevent you from a wealth of interest in the photos (“fotografie originali de Philip Gatward”).

Exploded views of bikes? Check!

Correct form?  Check! (“Il motore umano” in Italian, translating to “the human engine”.)

This excellent tome was published in 1992, so things may have changed a bit since.  Do road racers still wear the tiniest of briefs in Europe these days?  (Did they ever?)  Three miles into a ride while wearing a Speedo would kill me, but perhaps these Euro-types are made of heartier stuff.

Bicycles of the future?  Check!  Although the future is here, so one can look up the models now, in 2013, and see which survived.  (Not this one, it seems.)

In biciletta con la famiglia? Check! (This is probably my favorite two-page spread in a book full of wonderful ones.)  That’s a three-seat tricycle in the lead (labelled “Ken Rogers”), linked to two inline trailers.  Impressive, no?

City cycling, mountain bikes, touring, road racing, maintenance, frames, wheels, accessories . . . you name it, it’s covered here, all exquisitely illustrated.

Don’t be put off by the 1992 publication date; I’m not.  I love these treasures from earlier times — a book like this provides a wealth of information about the state of the art in its own era, and is a terrific reminder of how things have changed, and, yes, sometimes, how they have remained the same.  This is time travel at its finest!

Those very English-sounding author and photographer names? That’s because this lavish work was originally published by Dorling Kindersley, purveyor of beautifully illustrated, informative books.  You can buy it as Bicycle, new or used, in English, and I heartily recommend the purchase in whatever language you find it.