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, March 8, 2013


On the iconicity of the Encyclopedia Britannica 

and the deconsecration thereof

Ashes to Ashes. Arctic to Biosphere. Birds to Chess. 

There's an earlier post on this site on the digitization of the EB. Here writer Julian Baggini gives his own end to the bound bundle. His essay and the narrative accompanying the video point to the socio-economic dimensions involved in knowledge acquisition, and how books (here explicitly the EB sold by door-to-door salesman) become part of that. The way up in life is through reading and learning. Or so it was.

One of the best lines in here regards the "ossification of knowledge" in the encyclopedic medium. Knowledge is already dead in this form. He's just giving a proper burial.

What is particularly interesting are the comments at the end. So many wrote in to suggest how wrong was the action, that these books could still be used. That they should have been donated, or recycled. The irony here being most of the ones arguing that books should not be burned were the ones that clearly didn't actually read the essay to understand his finer points.