I’m in haste tonight. Got a translation assignment, and I think I may have promised to deliver faster than I should have. So time’s wingéd chariot is tailgating me like a Ferrari on a blue highway.
In lieu of anything original, I’ll share this nice article from Atlas Obscura about the curses medieval scribes placed in books, so that people wouldn’t steal or mangle them.
“These curses were the only things that protected the books,” says Marc Drogin, author of Anathema! Medieval Scribes and the History of Book Curses. “Luckily, it was in a time where people believed in them. If you ripped out a page, you were going to die in agony. You didn’t want to take the chance.”
No Amazon link. I checked and Drogin’s book is very rare and copies are expensive. At those prices, they should have their own curses.
The New York Public Library has begun to distribute full novels on Instagram Stories, you know, meeting the kids where they’re at and stuff. They announced it this way: “Introducing Insta Novels. A reimagining of Instagram Stories to provide access to some of the most iconic stories ever written. And to bring over 300,000 more titles straight to your phone.”
Perhaps someone will read something sometime. (via Prufrock News)
Today was a big day in the history of my little library. A day long anticipated. We began our project of moving our bookshelves closer together, so that we can put in one or two new units in the space we’ve got. The minions of our Maintenance Department at the schools came up with an ingenious system for clearing one unit at a time and sliding them over a few feet using boards and ropes. And it works. So far.
I’m fairly sure the pyramids of ancient Egypt were constructed in much the same way.
Like the hierophants of search-engineering, Hernando wanted readers to have an infinitely searchable database ‘that would allow people to wander in places they did not know, perhaps had not even dreamed existed’. Like him, the webmasters have failed to give us that degree of liberation: cyber ghettoes prevail. ‘We are in danger of hemming ourselves into ever smaller enclaves, increasingly oblivious to the infinite … worlds that we simply no longer see.’
Hernando Colón, son of Christopher Columbus, gave us the story of his father’s great adventures, making much of the man and little of the missteps. He built a library with the intention of housing everything long before Ripley tried his hand at a tawdry version of it. The Biblioteca Colombina (pictures) has been a marvel in the past but only about 4,000 of the original 15,000 items remain. Felipe Fernández-Armesto paints a picture of it in his review of Edward Wilson-Lee’s Harnando biography. (via Prufrock News)
You’ve likely seen photos of some of these libraries before. At least, I have, and I don’t know how they retrieve books from the three-story shelving in Haus W or some of the others pictured here.
A character I had to read a lot about in the previous couple years was Melvil Dewey (a spelling reformer, he reformed his own first name), the father of modern librarianship and inventor of the Dewey Decimal System. He was a crank generally, but he left his mark.
Atlas Obscura today has an article about another of Dewey’s projects — he didn’t invent it, but he promoted it heavily. “Library hand” was a form of handwriting librarians were expected to master before typewriters became ubiquitous.
Influenced by Edison and honed via experimenting on patient, hand-sore librarians, library hand focused on uniformity rather than beauty. “The handwriting of the old-fashioned writing master is quite as illegible as that of the most illiterate boor,” read a New York State Library School handbook. “Take great pains to have all writing uniform in size, blackness of lines, slant, spacing and forms of letters,” wrote Dewey in 1887. And if librarians thought they could get away with just any black ink, they could think again real fast. “Inks called black vary much in color,” scoffed the New York State Library School handwriting guide.
My MLIS training was deficient. They didn’t teach us a thing about this.
I agree that public libraries should have a line item in every city and state budget. Small towns particularly need libraries or cultural centers to draw their folks out of a small town mindset into the larger world, and even though this may be accomplished with private ownership, I’d think public funding or tax leniency would be needed to run a library suitable for a whole town or area of a city.
I get the impression that Charles Simic, writing in the blog for the New York Review of Books, is not reading off the page to which my book is open. He writes, “‘The greatest nation on earth,’ as we still call ourselves, no longer has the political will to arrest its visible and precipitous decline and save the institutions on which the workings of our democracy depend.”
It’s more correct to say there isn’t the political will to arrest the negligent spending in other areas–areas where new civil rights have been declared–that are squeezing out the funds for good, but unglamorous, services like libraries. Of course, there are competing voices Continue reading Maybe Apathy Isn’t Closing Public Libraries