futureofthebook theme park
Stories theme park is going public this morning. Here we will connect the destiny of the book with the precepts of tourism allure.
The story of the Stories is interwoven, heir-loomed right here in Iowa with FotB stealth agendas.
an Obermann lesson, #1
The arduous production of parchment has certain “golden” moments. One occurs as the stretched skin suddenly turns snow white under the lunging knife. Another occurs during the knife shaving when the loud scrape suddenly changes pitch.
But a nearly unnoticed golden moment occurs at the end. This is when the parchment maker rests at the end of the work and finishes the skin with a quick wipe of a very slightly damp rag. The slight moisture immediately seals remaining dust of powdered gelatin producing a wonderful nappy sheen over the surface. The parchment is self-sizing.
The trimmings of the parchments were not wasted and neither was the observation of the subtle transition of self-sizing. The early papermakers immediately adopted both. In their challenge to mimic parchment from felted rag fiber they immediately grasped the potential of sealing the fuzzy surface with a sheen of parchment. They also understood the need to make a material with the strength and durability of parchment. Paper could only play this tough role after a wicking of gelatin sizing. The rattle of the dry sheet was then a golden moment of medieval papermaking.
an Obermann lesson, #2
Awash in a environment of manufactured stuff and the wasteland if its disposal, we are poorly situated to apply aesthetic to the handmade goods of the medieval world. The first exercise in materialist philology will be to vaporize our inclinations to judge good, better, and best parchment. Instead we should look to a craft skill, labor time and harvest risk valuation.
an Obermann lesson, #3
At first a new medium mimics the established medium. Early parchment had the template of papyrus, paper had the template of parchment, the hand-held screen has the template of the paper book. Early printing simulated manuscript and websites simulate pages.
It is less remarked that an established medium may be so resilient that it can mimic the new. In the 15th century parchment began to mimic paper and editions were printed on both. Today paper mimics the visual screen. Digital print-on-demand, fax and PDF and screen prints are hybrids of reverse transition between media.
an Obermann lesson, #4
Each medieval bookbinding was made for a different reason. Each one looks different and was differently used. Today we assume the commodification of books and assume that they are physically all the same. They are either uncased paperbacks or cased hardbacks.
Such different artifactual ecologies require a special triangulation for study of early books. With the early book a third party, following the voice of the makers and the voice of the living investigators, is the voice of the book itself. Each individual book is self-authenticating and can answer in its own way each query.
an Obermann lesson, #5
There is another discourse relevant to the role of materialist qualities in book studies. Simply put; Will screen delivery supercede print for academic publication?
Screen advocates anticipate a rapture when we will leave bodies of physical media and connect directly to conceptual works. Materialist qualities disappear. An inflected language of dead trees, obsolescence and inconvenience disparages print. There is a rant against tangible library collections. There is an assumption that screen simulation of print is an equivalent, fungible substitute. Generally there is a contention that physical media and their materialist qualities are dispensable.
If such a displacement can happen now, it could happen then or in the future because the discourse is actually positioned around the destiny of the bionic reader. A counter thesis, well supported in reality, is apparent and provoked. But the discourse itself is an
gorilla in the room.
an Obermann lesson, #6
An invisible assimilation disturbs our sense of the materiality of a parchment manuscript. This is our presumption that any manuscript, old or new, is a master for its own reproduction. Beginning with photo derived reproduction and advancing with technologies of color printing and copying on paper all extended with electronic transmission we assume that every original is the parent of its own simulation. This assumption could not exist prior to the advent of such means of reproduction.
If the medieval manuscript, in context, could not be imagined as its own photo master then the assumption that it could be an exemplar was materially different and the material status of the exemplar was also safe in a state its own self-reference. A point of reference here is the Donald Jackson St. John’s Bible and the uneasy relation of this manuscript to any eventual bound format.
A further implication is that every THING in the medieval material culture, not just text, acted as an exemplar for its own recreation.
an Obermann lesson, #7
The evolution of the wooden board codex binding era culminated with the gymnastic, elegant anatomy of mid 16th century. This evolution had begun more than eight centuries earlier and had absorbed transitions from papyrus, to parchment, to paper. The wooden board binding technology had also absorbed the transition from manuscript to print.
My point being that no one appears to recognize that the purpose of the contemporary hand-held devices or e-books is not to read them. Everyone is trying to read the things and trying to access books on them. The purpose of the devices is to learn their navigation, or in the idiom of the wooden board anatomy, to learn their book action. Yesterday I had the most interesting Kindle conversation with a librarian from Senegal although we did not share a common text language.