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…let’s get started…

maira-kalmanillustration by Maira Kalman
from Michael Pollan’s Food Rules

From The Mysterious Ancient Origins of the Book:

Rome in the 1st Century CE was awash with the written word…and the libraries of the wealthy were stocked with books on history, philosophy and the arts. But these were not books as we know them – they were scrolls, made from sheets of Egyptian papyrus pasted into rolls anywhere from 4.5 to 16 metres (14.76ft to 52.49ft) in length.

…it took both hands to read a scroll properly…the only way to read a scroll was to unwind it carefully from the right hand and, passing it to the left, to roll it up again. Writers and copyists usually wrote in columns a few inches wide, so that the bulk of the fragile papyrus in the scroll could be kept safely rolled up.

Papyrus will also crack and tear if it is folded too often, leading naturally to the gently curved shape of the scroll itself – and so to the fact that most scrolls carried writing only on one side. Only if the text on the front of a scroll was no longer needed would its owner flip it over and use the other side; a double-sided scroll was just too difficult to read otherwise.

Sometime in or before the First Century CE a new kind of book appeared that promised to address the scroll’s shortcomings. The evidence is sparse but telling: archaeologists have discovered a few key scraps of papyrus whose text unexpectedly continues from the front to the back, and whose neat margins one might expect to find in a paged book. And that is exactly what these fragments are: they are leaves from the first paged books the world had ever seen. We know that the Romans called this new kind of book the codex…

Codices leant themselves to being bound between covers of wood or ‘pasteboard’ (pasted-together sheets of waste papyrus or parchment), which protected them from careless readers. Their pages were easy to riffle through and, with the addition of page numbers, paved the way for indices and tables of contents. They were space-efficient too, holding more information than papyrus scrolls of a comparable size:…Robust, efficient and accessible, the codex was literally the shape of things to come.

codex_vi_opened_at_the_center_of_the_quireNag Hammadi Codex VI opened at the center of the quire*
The Nag Hammadi Library, a collection of thirteen ancient codices
containing over fifty texts, was discovered in upper Egypt in 1945.

model codesA model of a ‘Nag Hammadi’ codex, made in the style of a cache of 4th Century books
found in Egypt in 1945 (Credit: Irina Gorstein (book model), Adam Kellie (photography)

*Note – a “quire” can mean either 24 folded leaves, or any collection of leaves,  one within another and stitched together in a manuscript or book. The center of the quire is essentially the center of the opened book.

[Special thanks to friend Jos who’s always sending me bits of bookishness..]




1976_10_book carry


1976_11_book doorway

window light

Book posters by German designer Gunter Rambow
for German publishing house, S. Fischer Verlag

More of his work here

[h/t to Biblioklept for the link that led to The Casual Optimist…]





From Ian Brown’s, Sixty: A Diary of my Sixty-First Year:

The redeeming trait of old age—or of aging into old age as the gerontologists put it—is that finally, you can begin to look at the unlived life and appreciate it is still life. If you take the trouble to write down the details, paying attention to the truth, and not the official version, you get a second chance to live it. That is the real discipline of getting older: to force myself to pay attention to details, as if they matter still.

I’m not exactly sure where middle age is. I would guess that once they close the cover, they can take a total of your years and establish that mid-point. In our culture it’s been fixed close to the age of 50. If that’s true, then I appreciate the optimism.

Truth is, those of us who have reached this age, or beyond, have developed a history to look back on and we are very conscious of the context in which those details exist. And, if you’ve faced your mortality, and the trauma that comes with it, those details become very clear. If you’ve faced it twice, then they’re clearer still.

Yet, as clear to us the history, the more conscious we become of the present. Not only of where we are, but where we can be. Although the marketplace, and society, considers us done, we’re just not quite yet finished. And there’s still such an incredible amount to see.

Ian Brown has written a book about his own details. There is humor, observation, and sometimes melancholy. Some of his insights are common felt.

I would recommend the book to those of a common age although anyone can pick it up and enjoy his writing. But worth a read…and a bit of thought…

[Note – I had wanted to post this in a few days but as happens, I hit the wrong button. So some typos have been corrected and an image added. And shorter may have been better…]




paris homework

Amy Krouse Rosenthal explains:


– from pp. 302-303, Textbook, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal



wall upset

wall looker


book bricks

A Single Book Can Alter The Strongest Of Foundations

Installation artist Jorge Mendez Blake creates a powerful brick sculpture titled “The Castle”. The intimidating wall, formidable and erect, loses its symmetry and forms a rift at the point where a book it inserted at its root.

The potent power of knowledge, held in books, can fracture even the backbone of a monument if it’s foundation is formed from it. The brick wall signifies an obstacle against knowledge, the symmetry of its aligned bricks representing the faultless and exemplary laws, rules and regulations that at once come undone at the hands of a book.

– via The Design Dome

[h/t to Library Journal for the lead-in..]


…time to make some choices…

this or this_2

[h/t to thisisnthappiness…of course…]

For the bookish in us…all available…and more… at the Out of Print shop:

out of print clothing arrayclockwise from top left:
Zen and the Art of Motorcyle Maintanance t-shirt,
Edgar Allan Poe socks, Moby Dick t-shirt, Library Card scarf,
The Little Prince socks

Best get there soon…lots of stuff selling out…

StuckInABookIncidental Comics
Words and Pictures by Grant Snider
[more here]

McDermott quote 3

Alice Mcdermott

© Bill Israel

What I'm reading now...

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