Papyrus, cuneiform, rice paper, vellum
February 23, 2009
Papyrus, cuneiform clay tablets, rice paper, palm leaves, tree bark, vellum, deer skin, decorative gilt leather, chiseled marble, copper plates, silk scrolls for fastidious delectation, and so on. Electrons, ebooks, will find their role and level.
One thing all these FORMS of reading demonstrate is that the nature and experience of reading has through the centuries assumed numerous physical shapes. Not everyone will want to make the transition, and not for every type of book. Literary and artistic, cultural works, especially, will continue to preserve and honor, at times, the exceptional qualities of high weight and exotic papers. Under all the Forms, Platonic, the experience of the Archetype, the Idea, if you will, prevails and will continue… in the mind of a human being.
Those who worry about the demise of the book should take heart from history. But why waste so many trees on manuals, pulp fiction, the required textbooks that the overburdened backs of school children lug around, unread — and the ephemeral newspapers that more and more people read online?
Call me old fashioned and nostalgic, but I hope we’ll always hold some books worthy of time-honored paper, linen, and vellum, as an art form, in its own right, if nothing else.