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Posts Tagged ‘books

“The cosmos is within us. We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself”*…

 

Did you ever wonder where you came from? That is the stuff that’s inside your body like your bones, organs, muscles…etc.  All of these things are made of various molecules and atoms. But where did these little ingredients come from? And how were they made?…

Find the answer at “How much of the human body is made up of stardust?

* Carl Sagan

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As we hum along with Hoagy Carmichael, we might recall that it was on this date in 1958 that the first American edition of Vladimir Nabakov’s Lolita was released.  Finished in 1953, Nabakov was turned down by publishers ranging from Simon & Schuster to New Directions, all concerned about its subject matter.  Nabakov turned to Maurice Girodias and his Olympia Press, and published in France in 1955.  Though it received almost no critical attention on release, Graham Greene called in “one of the three best novels of 1955″ in a year-end wrap-up published in the Sunday Times– provoking a response in the Sunday Express that the novel was one “one of the filthiest” ever.  Surprisingly to many, the novel’s American launch elicited no official response.  But it registered hugely with the reading public: it went into a third printing within days and became the first novel since Gone with the Wind to sell 100,000 copies in its first three weeks.  Lolita is included on Time‘s “List of the 100 Best Novels in the English language from 1923 to 2005,” and it is fourth on the Modern Library’s 1998 “List of the 100 Best Novels of the 20th century.”

Cover and half-title page of a presentation copy of the first American edition, inscribed by Nabokov to his wife, Vera ( “Verina verae Nab Aug. 1958 Ithaca”) and embellished with a delicately-rendered butterfly.

source

 

Written by LW

August 18, 2014 at 1:01 am

“More poetry, less demo”*…

 

School for Poetic Computation is an artist run school in New York that was founded in 2013. A small group of students and faculty work closely to explore the intersections of code, design, hardware and theory — focusing especially on artistic intervention. It’s a hybrid of a school, residency and research group…

The school for poetic computation is organized around exploring the creative and expressive nature of computational approaches to art and design. The school approaches writing code like creative writing — focusing on the mechanics of programming, the demystification of tools, and hacking the conventions of art-making with computation.

We value the craft necessary to realize an idea, recognizing that every writer needs space and time to hone their trade. Our school aims to provide a safe haven for you to get acquainted with the craft of coding at your own pace, make it your own, and investigate the space between creative process and craft. This takes conversations with colleagues and the right push at the right time.

The school aims to be more than a technical bootcamp. It is an opportunity to work intensively with a small group of students, faculty, and artists to explore questions about the poetics of computation. For us, computation is poetic when technology is used for critical thinking and aesthetic inquiry – a space where logic meets electricity (hardware), math meets language (software) and analytical thinking meets creative experimentation…

More about the New York City-based School here; more projects (larger and more legible) here; and more background, via the School’s blog, here.

* motto of the School for Poetic Computation

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As we get past the do loops to just do it, we might recall that it was on this date in 1667 that Samuel Pepys took delivery of the first recorded glass-fronted bookcase.  He wrote in his famous diary:

“So took up my wife and home, there I to the office, and thence with Sympson, the joyner home to put together the press he hath brought me for my books this day, which pleases me exceedingly.”

and a few days later he wrote:

“and then comes Sympson to set up my other new presses for my books, and so he and I fell into the furnishing of my new closett … so I think it will be as noble a closett as any man hath.”

These cabinets– each with paired glazed doors in 21 small panes, over a low section, also with glazed panes, made to hold large folio volumes– are believed to be the same bookcases on display in the Pepys Library at Magdalene College, Cambridge.

 source

 

 

Written by LW

August 17, 2014 at 1:01 am

“There is no better high than discovery”*…

 

Be careful what you use as a bookmark. Thousands of dollars, a Christmas card signed by Frank Baum, a Mickey Mantle rookie baseball card, a marriage certificate from 1879, a baby’s tooth, a diamond ring and a handwritten poem by Irish writer Katharine Tynan Hickson are just some of the stranger objects discovered inside books by AbeBooks.com booksellers.

I recently opened a secondhand book and an airline boarding pass from Liberia in west Africa to Fort Worth, Texas, fell to the floor. Was there a story behind this little slip of paper? Was someone fleeing from a country ravaged by two civil wars since 1989? I will never know, but used and rare booksellers discover countless objects – some mundane, some bizarre, some deeply personal – inside books as they sort and catalog books for resale.

Adam Tobin, owner of Unnameable Books in Brooklyn, New York, has created a display inside his bookstore dedicated to objects discovered in books.

“It’s a motley assortment,” he said. “We’ve been doing it for about two years since opening the store. The display quickly took over the back wall and now it’s spreading to other places, and there’s a backlog of stuff that we haven’t put up yet. There are postcards, shopping lists, and concert tickets but my favorites are the cryptic notes. They are often deeply personal and can be very moving.”

Used booksellers often take ownership of books that have been in a family or a household for decades or even generations. “It’s easy to find things in books that are very dated,” explained Adam,” Such as a newspaper advert for elastic bands from the 19th century. My personal favorite is an ad from the 1950s that reads ‘Rinsing Dacron Curtains in Milk Makes Them Crisp, Stiff, Just Like New.’”

The most valuable item discovered by Adam is a letter written by C.S. Lewis – author of the Narnia series – but his monetary finds have been limited to a $1 note now pinned to the display.

Eager to learn more, AbeBooks.com asked its booksellers to reveal their finds. You might be surprised to learn what people will leave inside a book…

Discover this buried treasure at “Things Found in Books.”

[TotH to @MartyKrasney]

* E.O. Wilson

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As we rifle through the volumes in our libraries, we might might recall that it was on this date in 1887 that there occured an event that would surely have warmed Dr. Wilson’s heart:  an enormous “rain of ants” at Nancy in France.; “most of them were wingless” (Nature, 36-349.. as quoted in Charles Fort’s The Book of the Damned).

 source

 

Written by LW

July 21, 2014 at 1:01 am

“Time will bring to light whatever is hidden”*…

 

book

fore-edge painting is an image on the edges of the pages of a book. The work can only be seen when the pages are fanned (as illustrated in the GIF above and the videos below). When the book is closed, the image is obscured by the gilding– the gold leaf applied to the edges of the page.

email readers click here for video

Fore-edge paintings first arose during the European Middle Ages but came to prominence during the mid-17th century to the late 19th century. Anne C. Bromer for the Boston Public Library [which holds one of the finest collections of fore-edge paintings in the U.S.] writes, “Most fore-edge painters working for binding firms did not sign their work, which explains why it is difficult to pinpoint and date the hidden paintings.”

email readers click here for video

See and read more at “40 Hidden Artworks Painted on the Edges of Books.”  See also here, here, and here.

* Horace

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As we hunt for Easter eggs, we might spare an ecumenical thought for Ramon Llull; he died on this date in 1315 [source].  A philosopher, logician, poet, and theologian who was heavily influenced by Islam, he is credited with the first major work of Catalan literature (the romantic novel Blanquerna), with having anticipated by several centuries prominent work on elections theory, and with pioneering work on computation theory (largely given his influence on Leibniz).

One of the earliest Encyclopedists, he gave up the life of a courtier (to King James of Aragon) first to become a hermit, then a Franciscan.  After a 1297 meeting with Duns Scotus, he was given the nickname Doctor Illuminatus.

 source

 

Written by LW

June 29, 2014 at 1:01 am

“A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest”*…

 

In the mid 17th-century John Comenius published what many consider to be the first picture book dedicated to the education of young children, Orbis Sensualium Pictus – or The World of Things Obvious to the Senses drawn in Pictures, as it was rendered in English…

Originally published in 1658 in Latin and German, the Orbis — with its 150 pictures showing everyday activities like brewing beer, tending gardens, and slaughtering animals — is immediately familiar as an ancestor of today’s children’s literature. This approach centered on the visual was a breakthrough in education for the young, as was the decision to teach the vernacular in addition to Latin. Unlike treatises on education and grammatical handbooks, it is aimed directly at the young and attempts to engage on their level.

The Orbis was hugely popular. At one point it was the most used textbook in Europe for elementary education, and according to one account it was translated into “most European and some of the Oriental languages.” Its author John Comenius, a Czech by birth, was also well-known throughout Europe and worked in several countries as a school reformer. His portrait was painted by Rembrandt, and according to an 1887 edition of the Orbis, Comenius was even “once solicited to become President of Harvard College.” (Although he never came to Harvard, one can still find his name engraved on the western frieze of Teachers College at Columbia University.) Even if he is less celebrated today by name, his innovative ideas about education are still influential. In his Didactica Magna, for example, he advocates for equal educational opportunities for all: boys and girls, rich and poor, urban and rural…

Read more in Charles McNamara’s “In the Image of God: John Comenius and the First Children’s Picture Book.”

* C.S. Lewis

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As we see Spot run, we might recall that this the date commonly given for the for the day that the Pied Piper (Rattenfänger) led the children of Hamelin, Germany, into a mountain cave.

A German version of the tale seems to have survived in a 1602/1603 inscription found in Hamelin in the Rattenfängerhaus (Pied Piper’s, or Ratcatcher’s house):

Anno 1284 am dage Johannis et Pauli
war der 26. junii
Dorch einen piper mit allerlei farve bekledet
gewesen CXXX kinder verledet binnen Hamelen gebo[re]n
to calvarie bi den koppen verloren  

which has been translated into English as:

In the year of 1284, on John’s and Paul’s day
was the 26th of June
By a piper, dressed in all kinds of colours,
130 children born in Hamelin were seduced
and lost at the place of execution near the Koppen.

 source

“From my close observation of writers… they fall into two groups: 1) those who bleed copiously and visibly at any bad review, and 2) those who bleed copiously and secretly at any bad review”*…

 

“This was the absolute second worst book I’ve ever read (the worst being Hotel For Dogs).”

Further to our old friends at You Can’t Please Everyone, a Tumblr devoted to “reviews of classic books, culled from the internet’s think tank”: One-Star Book Reviews.

“HOW MANY BOOKS HAS SHE WRITTEN ANYWAY HUNDREDS RIGHT ? WAY TOO MANY I TELL YOU — STOP THIS WOMAN”

“First of all, the whole thing is almost all dialogue.”

More critical cruelty at One-Star Book Reviews.

* Isaac Asimov

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As we get in touch with our inner John Simon, we might recall that it was on his date in 1911 that Thomas Mann visited the Lido in Venice and hatched the idea for Death in Venice.  Mann’s diaries, unsealed in 1975, tell of his struggles with his bisexuality– struggles reflected in his work most prominently through the obsession of the elderly writer Aschenbach, for the 14-year-old Polish boy Tadzio in the novella.  It was for this work, along with Buddenbrooks and The Magic Mountain, that Mann was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1929.  

 source

 

Written by LW

May 25, 2014 at 1:01 am

“Your library is your paradise”*…

 

From the classical…

Originally opened in 1602, the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Library certainly isn’t short on history. And after four centuries’ worth of expansions, the principal library and its satellite buildings now hold some 11 million printed items. One of those buildings, the Radcliffe Camera, is a neoclassical circular structure designed by James Gibbs in 1749 that has become an icon of Oxford’s campus.

… to the modern…

When it opened in 2004, the Seattle Public Library’s Central Library changed everything. The 21st-century library shouldn’t only celebrate the book, argued Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas of OMA, but “redefine [it] as an information store where all potent forms of media, new and old, are presented equally and legibly.” That thinking led to a reshuffling of the library’s functional components, generating a striking 363,000-square-foot structure with a glassy faceted shell.

Architectural Digest‘s “The Most Spectacular Libraries Around the World.”

* Desiderius Erasmus

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As we hold it down, we might recall that today is the first day of National Library Week!

 

Written by LW

April 13, 2014 at 1:01 am

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