Iconic books are texts revered as objects of power rather than just as words of instruction, information, or insight. In religious and secular rituals around the globe, people carry, show, wave, touch and kiss books and other texts, as well as read them. This blog chronicles such events and activities. (For more about iconic books, see the links to the Iconic Books Project at left.)

Friday, July 25, 2008

More Ten Commandments monuments

As controversy and court cases continue to swirl around when and under what circumstances decalogues can appear on public property in the U.S. (see Associate Press, Associated Press), many advocates of monuments to the Ten Commandments have moved or erected them on private property, often as a direct result of the controversies (see Project Moses, World Net Daily). But this new monument on Highway 2 in Bimidji, Minnesota, seems to have arisen from more personal reflections, as reported in the Bemidji Pioneer.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Burning Books by Fishburn

Palgrave Macmillan has released Burning Books by Matthew Fishburn. John Sutherland reviews the book in the Telegraph:

Matthew Fishburn's fascinating chronicle follows ritual book-burning through the ages, from the Old Testament's Jeremiah to those latter-day descendants of the venerable Caliph, who burnt The Satanic Verses in Bradford in January 1989 (warming the publisher's hearts in the process - nothing gets a book headlines faster than angry flames licking round it).

Sutherland comments that book burning "doesn't feel illiberal: it feels blasphemous." Yes, that's what we've been trying to point out ...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Book Arts at SU

Some local book arts news from Syracuse University libraries:

Book Arts exhibition on Bird Library sixth floor
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This new exhibition in the hall exhibit case on the sixth floor of E.S. Bird library features an exploration of the book by students in Foundation Bookmaking (FND 116) and Hand Paper Print/Book workshop (PRT 552) in the College of Visual and Performing Arts. The exhibition is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday through August 21.

During the first 2008 summer session, students in the Foundation Bookmaking class taught by Assistant Prof. Chris Wildrick learned to make books that are image-intensive from both art and design points of view. Students learned to create their own books using several book-binding techniques and approaches, including accordions and scrolls, pamphlet bindings, Japanese bindings, coptic bindings, altered books, and interactive books. The class investigated how books are structured, both within one single page and from page to page throughout the book. They also learned about digital layout techniques using InDesign as well as the options available for online self-publishing. Students in the class were drawn from diverse areas of the University, and came with a wide range of interests, experience, and skills.

One day in the month of April, the book artists of PRT 552, the book arts class in the College of Visual and Performing Arts taught by Associate Professor Holly Greenberg, were told to make an exchange of books with the sole requirement that they fit inside a wooden box. The students created two separate exchanges of eight books apiece, totaling sixteen books in all. In the end the groups came up with two greatly diverse exchanges: “Dirt,” based upon the concept of what things we may want to keep hidden or secret, and “Home,” which played off the theme of rooms in a house and associations made with the space. All students were encouraged to use a variety of binding techniques and materials, as well as raise the question of “what is a book?” Both groups collaborated with the PRT 552 teaching assistant on the exterior design of their boxes.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Virtual shelves in virtual bookstore

As one more instance of virtual books imitating physical books as much as possible, Zoomii Books offers access to Amazon's books through an interface that looks like books on bookstore shelves. Sebastian Mary on if:book comments:

It's the most bookshop-like experience I've encountered online. Within seconds I'd been reminded of several books I've been meaning to read. ...

It's debatable, though, whether this kind of heavily-mediated pseudo-serendipity, while a pleasant change from the messy Amazon experience, isn't one metaphor too far. After all, how 'serendipitous' are the book thumbnails I find on its digitally-rendered 'shelves'?

From my perspective, this is another reminder that the iconicity of books has spread to social institutions, not just libraries and museums, but also bookstores. So as they become aware of it, web retailers will of course try to assimilate it and capitalize on it.