Bibliographic Imaginaries

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George Church writing his book in DNA:

Shannon Mattern on fugitive libraries:

Alain Resnais, Toute la mémoire du monde (1956; 20 minute film about the Bibliothèque nationale):

  • end of film: "And now the book marches on toward an imaginary boundary more significant in its life than passing through the looking glass. It’s no longer the same book. Before, it was part of a universal, abstract, indifferent memory where all books were equal and together basked in attention as tenderly distant as that shown by God to men. Here it’s been picked out, preferred over others. Here it’s indispensable to its reader, torn from its galaxy to feed these paper-crunching pseudo-insects, irreparably different from true insects in that each is bound to its own distinct concern. Astrophysics, physiology, theology, taxonomy, philology, cosmology, mechanics, logic, poetics, technology. Here we glimpse a future in which all mysteries are solved…when this and other universes offer up their keys to us. And this will come about simply because these readers, each working on his slice of universal memory, will have laid the fragments of a single secret end to end. Perhaps a secret bearing the beautiful name of 'happiness'."

Russian Constructivists

  • El Lissitzky: "the handmade UNOVIS Miscellany, issued in two copies in March–April 1920,[24] and containing his manifesto on book art: "the book enters the skull through the eye not the ear therefore the pathways the waves move at much greater speed and with more intensity. if i (sic) can only sing through my mouth with a book i (sic) can show myself in various guises."" (from Wikipedia); see Vitebsk: The Life of Art, pg 122

Nunberg, The Future of the Book (1996)

Borges, "The Library of Babel" (duh)

Johanna Drucker, A Century of Artists' Books: "the artist’s book is the quintessential 20th-century art form. Artists’ books appear in every major movement in art and literature and have provided a unique means of realizing works within all of the many avant-garde, experimental, and independent groups whose contributions have defined the shape of 20th century artistic activity."

Waldek Węgrzyn, Elektrobiblioteka/Electrolibrary -- book interface with built-in electronics:

The Feverish Library exhibit:

Library as Incubator project:

symposia, "Books as/and New Media":

  • For the last 500 years, printed books have been the default means of circulating knowledge. In the last 15 years, this has ceased to be the case. We are now living through a moment of media change as significant as the invention of printing itself. But we will not understand this moment until we situate it in historical perspective. These twinned symposia aim to do that, by bringing together leading scholars from both sides of the Atlantic working on book history, media, literature and digital humanities. All of them will attend both symposia, with the speakers at one event becoming the interlocutors at the other. Re-embedding the book in the changing media ecology, these symposia explore the long history of new media - from a time when the printed codex was the new medium, through the book’s encounters with the new media of photography, lithography and sound recording, to the digital revolution. In doing so they offer a more nuanced and historicized account of the book’s place in the shifting mediascape."

synesthetic books -- poetry/art; early examples

Topography of Typography, by El Lissitzky, Merz No 4, June 1923

The Electro-Library

First published as ‘The topography of typography’ (above) in Merz no. 4 (Hannover: July 1923).

1. The words on the printed surface are taken in by seeing, not by hearing.

2. One communicates meanings through the convention of words; meaning attains form through letters.

3. Economy of expression: optics not phonetics.

4. The design of the book-space, set according to the constraints of printing mechanics, must correspond to the tensions and pressures of content.

5. The design of the book-space using process blocks which issue from the new optics. The supernatural reality of the perfected eye.

6. The continuous sequence of pages: the bioscopic book.

7. The new book demands the new writer. Inkpot and quill-pen are dead.

8. The printed surface transcends space and time. The printed surface, the infinity of books, must be transcended. THE ELECTRO-LIBRARY.

Ray Bradbury, Farenheit 451, group of people that memorize books to save them, are called "walking books"

Xerox Book; animated gifs of its pages:

Uzanne, Octave. "The End of Books."

begins with a group hearing a lecture on calculations pinpointing when the world will end; group leaves, gets dinner, begins talking about the lecture and their own ideas

Old World ceding dominance to New (America) in progress; Africa will only be a place where the West bickers for resources -- until America falls, and it rises

in the future, nutrients will be given in the form of powders, syrups, etc.-- "everything reduced to the smallest possible bulk"

modern art has become a trade, copying Old Masters; art will turn away from reproduction of actual objects and become "a closed aristocracy" -- photography kills art

the narrator is asked about the destiny of books

"If by books you are to be understood as referring to our innumerable collections of paper, printed, sewed, and bound in a cover announcing the title of the work, I own to you frankly that I do not believe (and the progress of electricity and modern mechanism forbids me to believe) that Gutenberg’s invention can do otherwise than sooner or later fall into desuetude as a means of current interpretation of our mental products. “Printing, which Rivarol so judiciously called the artillery of thought, and of which Luther said that it is the last and best gift by which God advances the things of the Gospel — printing, which has changed the destiny of Europe, and which, especially during the last two centuries, has governed opinion through the book, the pamphlet, and the newspape — printing, which since 1436 has reigned despotically over the mind of man, is, in my opinion, threatened with death by the various devices for registering sound which have lately been invented, and which little by little will go on to perfection."

printing has "attained its acme of perfection, and that our grand-children will no longer trust their works to this somewhat antiquated process, now become very easy to replace by phonography, which is yet in its initial stage, and of which we have much to hope."

"You will surely agree with me that reading, as we practise it today, soon brings on great weariness; for not only does it require of the brain a sustained attention which consumes a large proportion of the cerebral phosphates, but it also forces our bodies into various fatiguing attitudes."

physical difficulty of reading

"the elevator has done away with the toilsome climbing of stairs; phonography will probably be the destruction of printing. Our eyes are made to see and reflect the beauties of nature, and not to wear themselves out in the reading of texts; they have been too long abused, and I like to fancy that some one will soon discover the need there is that they should be relieved by laying a greater burden upon our ears"

miniaturization of phonographs

authors depositing voices at Patent Office

libraries will become "phonographotecks"

storytellers/actors will become as important as author

bibliophiles becoming phonographophiles

"phonists" and "clamists" to interpret utterances dictated by authors -- like secretaries or copyists

"Hearers will not regret the time when they were readers; with eyes unwearied, with countenances refreshed, their air of careless freedom will witness to the benefits of the contemplative life. Stretched upon sofas or cradled in rocking-chairs, they will enjoy in silence the marvellous adventures which the flexible tube will conduct to ears dilated with interest."

can walk and listen to "pocket phono-operagraphs"

"fountains of literature in the streets as there are now hydrants"

automatic book dealers dispensing bookrolls

authors as troubadours, carrying literature from house to house on portable organ -- more democratic

railways, waiting rooms, restaurants -- equipped with phonographotheks

newspapers as phonographic rolls

pictures -- merged with Edison's Kinetograph -- kinetoscopic illustrations projecting images into homes

“Either the books must go, or they must swallow us up. I calculate that, take the whole world over, from eighty to one hundred thousand books appear every year; at an average of a thousand copies, this makes more than a hundred millions of books, the majority of which contain only the wildest extravagances or the most chimerical follies, and propagate only prejudice and error. Our social condition forces us to hear many stupid things every day. A few more or less do not amount to very great suffering in the end; but what happiness not to be obliged to read them, and to be able at last to close our eyes upon the annihilation of printed things!”

Brown, Bob. The Readies.

"The written word hasn't kept up with the age. The movies have outmanoeuvered it. We have the talkies, but as yet no Readies."

"Sure, break up the word and then throw all the broken bits away into a handy kaleidoscope. But keep a piece of each shattered statue, an arm of each Venus as a quarry specimen; preserve a hair of the dog you bit for publicity's shrinking sake; dry a lee (now used only in the pl.), press it between the pages of a bibulous Bible, to serve as a shrivelled club-footed langwich for future archeologists to munch upon in the finale of the Last Days of American Pumpeana." (2-3)

"Writing must become more optical, more eye-teasing, more eye-tasty, to give the word its due and tune-in on the age. Books are antiquated word containers." (12)

asking the reader "to forget for the moment the existing medievalism of the BOOK [God bless it, it's staggering on its last leg and about to fall] as a conveyor of reading matter. I requested the reader to fix his mental eye for a moment on the ever-present future and contemplate a reading machine which will revitalize his interest in the Optical Art of Writing." (27)

"all the arts are having their faces lifted" (28)

"Writing has been bottled up in books since the start. It is time to pull out the stopper." (28)

100 thousand word novels in 10 minutes -- printed in new ways, using new processes, on new substrates -- injected into new machines

reading machine allows reader to pick font size, it is "not the arbitrarily fixed, bound object we see imprisoned in books, but an adaptable carrier of flexible, flowing reading matter" (30) -- can slow down, speed up reading

"The underlying principle of reading remains unaffected, merely its scope is enlarged and its latent possibilities pointed." (30)

could queue up a series of books

save on paper, ink, binding

Roger Babson invented a "Talking Book" -- but for Brown, hemisses the point; "what's needed is a Bookless Book and certainly a silent one, because reading is for the eye and the INNER Ear. Literature is essentially Optical - - - not Vocal. Primarily, written words stand distinct from spoken ones as a colorful medium of Optical Art." (33)

can change tint

connects to news marquees, ticker tapes

Fiske machine -- pressure of more information pushes information's microscopization

but for Brown, Fiske's machine doesn't go far enough -- it still has the form of a book -- he wants a more dynamic scroll

"The accumulating pressure of reading and writing alone will budge type into motion, force it to flow over the column, off the page, out of the book where it has snoozed in apathetic contentment for half a thousand years." (24-5)

reading machine will put pressure on language to innovate -- remove useless conjunctions and conventions

"With written matter moving before the eyes new forms of expression will develop naturally and surely more expressive ones, at least a technical eye-lingo fo the Readie will result. The eye refreshed will ask for more, bawl for occasional tickling, eye-bawl, even tinted paper could be used to help along the flow of words and thoughts; and surely colored lighting effects on the reading tape. One colored strange in the up-to-date binder's stitching relieves the dull look of a book." (38)

emergence of a "visual Literary Language sharply separated from the Speaking Tongue." -- optical (39)

"Let's let writing out of books, give it a chance and see what it does with its liberty. Maybe beside moths there are butterflies in the core of those cloth-cased cocoons stacked away in libraries. Let them out and have a look." (40)

example of a story for Readies machine

"Punctuation is a problem which can only resolve itself when the words are put in motion." (51)

would be 35% longer with added words in book

Robert Coover, "The End of Books" (1992)

describing how hypertext is seen as next big thing in writing, biggest thing since invention of print

"it is still so radically new it is hard to be certain just what it is. No fixed center, for starters -- and no edges either, no ends or boundaries. The traditional narrative time line vanishes into a geographical landscape or exitless maze, with beginnings, middles and ends being no longer part of the immediate display. Instead: branching options, menus, link markers and mapped networks. There are no hierarchies in these topless (and bottomless) networks, as paragraphs, chapters and other conventional text divisions are replaced by evenly empowered and equally ephemeral window-sized blocks of text and graphics" -- how has hypertext developed formal structures and metahpors, the way the book did? what are they?

"The most radical new element that comes to the fore in hypertext is the system of multidirectional and often labyrinthine linkages we are invited or obliged to create."

"this is a technology that both absorbs and totally displaces. Print documents may be read in hyperspace, but hypertext does not translate into print. It is not like film, which is really just the dead end of linear narrative, just as 12-tone music is the dead end of music by the stave."


Zenon Fajfer, “liberature”: “Liberature refers to a new kind of literature, a trans-genre, in which the text and the material form of a book constitute an inseparable whole. The term itself is derived from the word ‘literature’, but draws from the Latin liber, meaning "a book" and "the free one", as well as libra meaning "measurement" or "writing as a measurement of words." In a work of liberature, text does not serve as the sole source of meaning; the shape and the construction of the book, its format, the number of pages, its typographical layout, the size and type of the font applied, pictures and photographs integrated with the text, and type of paper or other material used in the process of creation of the book are all taken into consideration. The reader confronts a work of liberature as a total package, which often assumes a non-traditional shape, the quality of which, in practice, sometime involves a radical separation from the traditional design of the book. Its textual message dictates the physical shape that the work finally assumes. All of this lends a level of intent and control to the creator of liberature that surpasses that of other genres.”

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