Thursday, November 03, 2011
Some Thoughts About Books as Objects
In this day of eBooks and iBooks and digital publishing; in this day when electronic displays are so sophisticated that one can actually turn pages on the screen and highlight passages and leave yellow sticky notes on the electronic page; in this day when one can carry an entire library of books in a convenient electronic case weighing no more than a pound or two; one is left to wonder about the future of books as physical, printed objects.
You must hold a real book in your hand, smell the pages, examine the type face, the spacing between letters; must note the shape and size of the book, the weight of it. Only then can you experience the book’s full import. And its magic.
A book as an object is a piece of history.
If you care to learn it, you can know a book’s age and place of publication just by recognizing the font used; or by how much spacing (leading) there is between lines of text; or by the amount of linen or acid in the paper; or whether the page edges were individually “cut” for reading as one went along, or machine cut as is common for newer books; or by the garish and graphic covers of pulp paperbacks from the ‘40’s and ‘50’s; or by seeing whether the engravings are copper or steel; or by noting the use of the letter “f” for the letter “s” and the like. You can gage the tastes of the period through the bindings most common to it.