ap of Maine and Explanation from Samuel Gridley Howe’s Atlas of the United States Printed for the Use of the Blind, 1837. More information here.
Book cover by Sulki Choi and Min Choi,
A nonmaterial definition of the book comes hand in hand, it seems to me, with a nonmaterial definition of reading. In the widest sense, I think the term simply means paying attention to what’s in front of you and trying to make sense of it. Fish do this as they swim through the water. Birds do it as they fly through the air or sit in the trees or on lam post waiting for breakfast. Earthworms do it as they poke through the sod, and I do it, not only in the library but also when I’m listening to those birds or looking at the water and thinking about those fish.
This foundational kind of reading is much older than the oldest protoliterate inscriptions, older than human language, older than the first, nameless primates, climbing around in the trees in northern Africa some sixty million years ago.
Chris Killip, ‘The Library of Chained Books,’ Hereford Cathedral, Hereford, UK, 1992.
In the Middle Ages, when monasteries were the closest equivalent to a public library, monks kept works in their carrels. To increase circulation, these works were eventually chained to inclined desks, or lecterns, thus giving ownership of a work to a particular lectern rather than a particular monk. But as collections grew, surface space diminished, and books came to be stacked on shelves above the lectern, at first one and then many. The problem, of course, was that two books chained next to each another couldn’t be comfortably studied at the same time: elbows knocked; shackles clinked and tangled.
A selection from Odorico Pillone’s library with fore edges painted by Cesare Vecellio.
Hence the innovation of vertical storage. One book could be removed without disturbing the rest. Yet the transition was gradual. Books in monasteries retained their chains for some time, and many leather covers, particularly in private libraries, protruded irregularly, tricked-out as they were with embossing and jewels. Those books that did stand were oriented with their spines to the back of the shelf.
Sometimes an identifying design was drawn across the thick of the pages. A doctor of law just north of Venice named Odorico Pillone had Titian’s nephew, Cesare Vecellio, draw the fore edges of his books with scenes befitting their content. Other times a title label flagged off the inner edge of the cover or was affixed to the chain.
From The New York Times Shows You 65 Ways to Decorate with Books in Your Home, photographer unknown.
All text by Francesca Mari,
A book printed through a printing chain made of four desktop printers using four different colors and technologies dated from 1880 to 1976. A production process that brings together small scale and large scale production, two sides of the same history.
- MAGENTA (Stencil duplicator, 1880)
- CYAN (Spirit duplicator, 1923)
- BLACK (Laser printer, 1969)
- YELLOW (Inkjet printer, 1976)
- 210 x 297 mm
- 42 pages
- 100 copies
Michael Sirianni :: Slow Burn.
A novel on what the first word might have been, and under what circumstances it might have been uttered.
Really looking forward to that read.