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.)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Illustrator Gavin Aung has produced an cartoon-style art-print that is a "love-letter to printed books." It uses a quotation from Carl Sagan that begins, "What an astonishing thing a book is," and ends, "A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic." In between, it invokes the immortality of authors able to speak across time.

The illustrations show books being found on shelves, checked out from the library and carried home. Sagan starts from the material object too: "It's a flat object made from trees with flexible parts, on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles." But he then evokes the power of material books to disappear, creating for readers the illusion of immediacy, of being "inside the mind of another person."

Students of books history and iconic books ask us to remember the mediation of fonts, paper, bindings, publishers, book sellers, teachers, schools, churches, families and governments that provide the infrastructure that supports reading. But the power of reading nevertheless derives from forgetting all that and falling back into the illusion of direct mind-to-mind communion.

Here it is. Aung sells posters and prints here. (h/t Michael Lieberman on Book Patrol)

Greater Truthiness with Baskerville

Errol Morris wrote a two-part essay in the New York Times about the effects of type-fonts. He used an online quiz to test whether six different fonts affected people's answers. He found that more people believed a statement printed in Baskerville than in Georgia, Helvetica and three others. Along the way, he has much to say about the tendency inherited from reading hand-writing to evaluate letter-forms for the credibility of what is written--the legitimacy earned from iconic fonts. He also summarizes John Baskerville's turbulant life.