11 Feb 2012, 2:09pm
books curation Reading
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Shelf-Conscious, an article by Francesca Mari


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,

read all about it here: Paris Review – Shelf-Conscious, Francesca Mari.

22 Oct 2010, 12:07pm
books language Reading
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Le premier mot, Vassilis Alexakis

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.

Shelley Jackson’s Skin Project



Since August, 2003, artist Shelley Jackson has been “publishing” her 2095-word story, one word at a time. Volunteers to the project agree to tattoo a word that Shelly assigns to them somewhere on their bodies. The word must be in a classic font and large enough to be readable by the naked eye. The project is ongoing, and documentation of it can be seen at her web site, www.inedradicablestain.comIf you want to volunteer for your own word, you can sign up through the site.

Dennis Oppenheim


“Reading Position for Second Degree Burn,” 1970.

Jones Beach, New York. Duration of exposure: 5 hours.

Literary London

Geoffrey Chaucer (1434 – 1400 )Upper Thames Street
Charles Dickens (1812-02-02 – 1870-06-09 ) , 48 Doughty Street
Sigmund Freud (1856-05-06 – 1939-08-23 ) , 20 Maresfield Gdns NW3
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-05-22 – 1930-07-07 ) , 12 Tennison Road, South Norwood, SE25
Virginia Woolf (1882-01-25 – 1941-03-28 ) , 22 Hyde Park Gate, Kensington
Winston Churchill (1874-11-30 – 1965-01-24 ) , 10 Downing Street / 34 Eccleston Square, Belgravia
Sylvia Plath (1932-10-27 – 1963-02-11 ) ,   23 Fitzroy Road
William Shakespeare (1564-04 – 1616-04-23 ) , the parish of St. Helen’s, Bishopsgate
Ian Fleming (1908-05-28 – 1964-08-12 )22 Ebury Street, Belgravia
Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-05-12 – 1882-04-10 )6 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea
Alfred Hitchcock (1899-08-13 – 1980-04-29 )Turner House, 153 Cromwell Road
Isaac Newton (1643-01-04 – 1727-03-31 )23 Jermyn Street, Piccadilly
Oscar Wilde, 34 Tite Street, ChelseaGeorge Eliot, Cheyne Walk, Chelsea SW3
Jane Austen, Hans Place/Pond st, SW1

Georges Sand – Lettre à Alfred de Musset

Je suis très émue de vous dire que j’ai
bien compris l’autre soir que vous aviez
toujours une envie folle de me faire
danser. Je garde le souvenir de votre
baiser et je voudrais bien que ce soit
là une preuve que je puisse être aimée
par vous. Je suis prête à vous montrer mon
affection toute désintéressée et sans cal-
cul, et si vous voulez me voir aussi
vous dévoiler sans artifice mon âme
toute nue, venez me faire une visite.
Nous causerons en amis, franchement.
Je vous prouverai que je suis la femme
sincère, capable de vous offrir l’affection
la plus profonde comme la plus étroite
amitié, en un mot la meilleure preuve
que vous puissiez rêver, puisque votre
âme est libre. Pensez que la solitude où j’ha-
bite est bien longue, bien dure et souvent
difficile. Ainsi en y songeant j’ai l’âme
grosse. Accourez donc vite et venez me la
faire oublier par l’amour où je veux me

Georges Sand (1804-1876)

You obtain a whole new meaning when skipping every other line…

The Education of a Graphic Designer, edited by Steven Heller

P113, Michael Worthington
“Consider how writting has evolved through various technological advances (carving in stone, painting on paper, mechanised printing, etc…) It has always been a magical tool: has always had the ability to reconstruct images, meaning, events from an abstracts platform across space and time, between best friends and total strangers. Even though the letterforms themselves- and their means of production and discrimination- have altered widely, the magic of the written word as communication has remained. This alphabetic magic differs from the communicative magic of the image…”

“New media develops in an exponential manner. It builds on the previous at a furious rate. Each interactive experience is not just a lesson for the individual maker, but also a work that is assimilated into a broader understanding of screen-based digital work.
Rather than a loss of authorship, there is a sense of sharing. You have to make this stuff and put it out there- let it have a life of its own, be altered by others (particularly on the net), be toyed with and abused. Like a typeface, it only really comes to life when it is used by someone or, in this case, experienced by someone. There is a liberalism that is essential to this production, leaving both design and text open to alteration and multiple interpretation isintrinsic to new media: the idea of creating a “readable experience” rather than a scripted space.

Cultural Consumption and Everyday Life (Cultural Studies in Practice), John Storey

“Myths are the stories societies live by. They provide ways of conceptualising and understanding the world, and therefore they are crucial to a society’s efforts (always in the interests of dominant groups) to construct and maintain a sense of self-identity (in terms of acceptable sameness and unacceptable difference). For Barthes myth attempts to become society’s common sense”- to produce and put into circulation modes of thinking in which what is cultural (i.e made by humans) is understood as natural (i.e a result of the laws of nature). Barthes’ concept of myth is very close to Marxism’s understanding of ideology in that, like ideology, myth is a body of ideas and practices which seek to defend the prevailing structures of power by actively promoting the values and interests of the dominant groups in society. Myths is successful to the extent it is able to naturalise and universalise the interests of dominant groups as if they were the interests of all members of society.
To understand this aspect of Barthes’ argument we need to understand the polysemic nature of signs; that is, that they have the potential to signify multiple meanings”

P30 (on the Paris Match cover)
“What makes the move from primary signification (denotation) to secondary signification (connotation) a possibility are the shared cultural codes on which both Barthes and the readership of Paris Match are able to draw. Without access to this shared code (conscious or unconscious) the operations of secondary signification (connotation) would not be possible. And of course such knowledge is always both historical and cultural. That is to say, it might differ from one culture to another, and from one historical moment to another. Cultural difference might also be marked by differences of class, race, gender, generation, or sexual preference.

As Barthes explains, reading closely depends on my culture, on my knowledge of the world, and it is probable that a good press photograph (…) makes ready play with the supposed knowledge of its readers
Secondary significations (connotations ) are therefore activated from an already existing cultural repertoire (…) and at the same time adds to it.
This is a process of cultural consumption as manipulation in which we as readers are active and complicit participants”

P44 The making of Class Difference

Pierre Bourdieu looks into how what social groups consume is “Part of a strategy for hierachicising social space”. “He shows how arbitrary tastes and arbitrary ways of living are continually transmuted into legitimate taste…”

The Practice of Everyday Life, Michel de Certeau

The Practice of Everyday Life examines the ways in which people individualise mass culture, altering things, from utilitarian objects to street plans to rituals, laws and language, in order to make them their own. Published in French as L’invention du quotidien.

The Practice of Everyday Life begins by pointing out that while social science possesses the ability to study the traditions, language, symbols, art and articles of exchange that make up a culture, it lacks a formal means by which to examine the ways in which people reappropriate them in everyday situations.

This is a dangerous omission, Certeau argues, because in the activity of re-use lies an abundance of opportunities for ordinary people to subvert the rituals and representations that institutions seek to impose upon them.

With no clear understanding of such activity, social science is bound to create nothing other than a picture of people who are non-artists (meaning non-creators and non-producers), passive and heavily subject to received culture. Indeed, such a misinterpretation is borne out in the term “consumer”. In the book, the word “user” is offered instead; the concept of “consumption” is expanded in the phrase “procedures of consumption” which then further transforms to “tactics of consumption”.

In the book, ordinary life is depicted as a constant, subconscious struggle against the institutions competing to assimilate the everyday man [person].