Mak 2011

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Mak, Bonnie. How the Page Matters. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2011.

"The page is a powerful interface between designer and reader, flexible enough to respond to a variety of demands while remaining comprehensible and communicative." (3)

"The following investigation will thus explore the significance of the page in the development of Western civilization and consider why the interface continues to play such an important role in the transmission of thought." (3)

Page isn't just part of codex, also "had an organizational function in the scroll" (4) -- paginae on long rolls of papyrus

"How the Page Matters offers a comparative and historical analysis that challenges present-day assumptions about reading, writing, and the production of texts. Chief among these suppositions is the simple coordination between physical platform, mode of production, and historical period: that is, that pages were written by hand on parch- ment in the Middle Ages, were printed with moveable type on paper after 1455, and are encoded for digital display in the twenty-first century." (4) -- rather "these relationships of materiality, temporality, and context operate in creative and dynamic tension" (4)

Page's architectures as "a complex and responsive entanglement of platform, text, image, graphic markings, and blank space" (5)

Controversia de nobilitate -- debate about origins of nobility, written 1428 by Florentine humanist Buonaccorso da Montemagno; widely circulated within 2 decades of writing; stages a debate between two suitors for Lucretia, one born wealthy, the other who labored to achieve his status

Boundaries of material and time constrict material textual studies

Eisenstein 1983 helped make printed book an artifact of cultural analysis; but emphasis on printed book has "also fractured the broader history of the codex and communication technologies" (6) and has helped give rise to comparative study of "print culture" and "digital culture"

Alternative history available through studying the page

"In our haste to establish a history of the book, we have read the page too quickly." (8)

Architectures of the Page

Calls the page a "platform" on 9, although it was an "interface" on 8"

Idea of print and digital "revolutions" "signalled that the history of writing technologies -- and the book in particular -- was to be understood in terms of technological supersession" (9), which allowed "the codex to be uncritically divided according to time and manner of production" (9-10)

Examination of page still wanting

"the construction of the page can be read as evidence of its social history" (10)

Columns on scrolls known as "paginae"; verse paginae wider, prose narrower with wider margins; deluxe scrolls have smaller paginae and wider margins; some paginae were forward sloping (12)

"The pagina thus emerges in the scroll as a conceptual structure by which informa- tion could be organized; it visually divides the long roll of writing material into shorter sections for the effective transmission of ideas." (12)

Tablets: wooden frame filled with wax; could be bound together along one edge (13)

Wax tablet only has one face; parchment allowed for recto and verso (paper not taken up until 11th century in west)

In codex, page is networked into larger structures like leaf, quire, sheets; recto and verso come into close conversation

Even after codex was adopted, scroll continued to be preferred for letters, contracts, bills of sale; important documents were written on parchment

Importance of letter shapes in the social history of thought

Blank space equally important, enabled silent reading

"The page is an expressive space for text, space, and image; it is a cultural artefact; it is a technological device. But it is also all of these at once." (18)

Reading the Page

Example of Controversia challenges notion that Humanistic hand was only associated with Latin literature; not the case in its early days

In France, was recoded as courtly didactic literature

"The page thus shapes the reception of the text by suggesting a tradition in which it belongs and a context in which it should be read. Designers encode an identity into their pages of the Controversia, and the treatise cannot be read without the simultaneous communication of this proposal. Transmit- ted in each copy of the Controversia is therefore not only the story of the treatise, but a story about its visualization, production, circulation, and preservation." (33)

The Paratext and the Page

The Digital Page

"Although the digitally encoded page may imitate the look and behaviour of coun- terparts in parchment and paper, it has its own distinct materiality." (62)

  • multiple pages can be shown together
  • borders of page might not match botders of hardware, causing user to scroll
  • software can support different relationships between pages than a codex