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.)

Monday, October 14, 2019

Miniature Books

Miniature Books: The Format and Function of Tiny Religious Texts, edited by Kristina Myrvold and Dorina Miller Parmenter, has now been published by Equinox. 
Miniature Books

Miniature books, handwritten or printed books in the smallest format, have fascinated religious people, printers, publishers, collectors, and others through the centuries because of their unique physical features, and continue to captivate people today. The small lettering and the delicate pages, binding, and covers highlight the material form of texts and invite sensory engagement and appreciation. This volume addresses miniature books with a special focus on religious books in Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist traditions. The book presents various empirical contexts for how the smallest books have been produced, distributed, and used in different times and cultures and also provides theoretical re ections and comments that discuss the divergent formats and functions of books.

Religious Miniature Books: Introduction and Overview
– Kristina Myrvold, Dorina Miller Parmenter
1. Ritualizing the Size of Books – James W. Watts
2. On the Functions of Miniaturizing Books in Jewish Religion
– Marianne Schleicher
3. Words in a Nutshell: Miniaturizing Texts in Early Modern England
– Lucy Razzall
4. Small Things of Greatest Consequence: Miniature Bibles in America
– Dorina Miller Parmenter
5. Diminutive Divination and the Implications of Scale: A Miniature Quranic Falnama
of the Safavid Period – Heather Coffey
6. Mite Qurans for Indian Markets: David Bryce in the Late Nineteenth and Early
Twentieth Century – Kristina Myrvold
7. Miniature Qurans in the First World War: Religious Comforts for Indian Muslim
Soldiers – Kristina Myrvold, Andreas Johansson
8. Size Matters! Miniature Mushafs and the Landscape of Affordances
– Jonas Svensson
9. Gitamahatmya! Paratexts in Miniature Bhagavad Gitas with Special Reference to
Pictures and Gender – Jon Skarpeid
10. Sutras Working in Buddha’s Belly and Buddhists’ Pockets: Miniature Sutras in
Korean Buddhism – Yohan Yoo, Woncheol Yun

Monday, July 22, 2019

CFP and Conference: The Image of the Book

RSA (Renaissance Society of America), 2-4 April 2020, Philadelphia

CFP: The Image of the Book: 1300–1600

      .... This session seeks to assemble speakers who will address the depiction of books in painting, sculpture, print, and other art forms from one or more of these angles, with an eye towards understanding images as mediated signs as opposed to transparent representations of “real” objects and practices.
       The session will be held in conjunction with the Books as Symbols in Renaissance Art (BASIRA) Project, currently being developed to enable a high-quality, searchable scholarly database of such representations.
Full Call for Papers at  https://basiraproject.wordpress.com/2019/07/12/join-us-call-for-papers/

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

How and Why Books Matter

What I have learned from 18 years of the Iconic Books Project—now collected together in one place:

Religious and secular communities ritualize some books in one, two, or three dimensions. They ritualize the dimension of semantic interpretation through teaching, preaching, and scholarly commentary. This dimension receives almost all the attention of academic scholars. Communities also ritualize a text’s expressive dimension through public reading, recitation, and song, and also by reproducing its contents in art, theatre and film. This dimension is receiving increasing scholarly attention, especially in religious studies and anthropology. A third textual dimension, the iconic dimension, gets ritualized by manipulating the physical text, decorating it, and displaying it. This dimension has received almost no academic attention, yet features prominently in the most common news stories about books, whether about e-books, academic libraries, rare manuscript discoveries, or scripture desecrations. By calling attention to the iconic dimension of books, James Watts argues that we can better understand how physical books mediate social value and power within and between religious communities, nations, academic disciplines, and societies both ancient and modern.

How and Why Books Matter will appeal to a wide range of readers interested in books, reading, literacy, scriptures, e-books, publishing, and the future of the book. It also addresses scholarship in religion, cultural studies, literacy studies, biblical studies, book history, anthropology, literary studies, and intellectual history.

Table of Contents: 
Introduction: The Iconic Books Project  1-5
Chapter 1 How Books Matter: The Three Dimensions of Scriptures  7-29
Chapter 2 Iconic Books and Texts  31-54
Chapter 3 Relic Texts  55-69
Chapter 4 Iconic Digital Texts: How Rituals Materialize Virtual Texts  71-81
Chapter 5 Desecrated Scriptures and the News Media  83-98
Chapter 6 Ancient Iconic Texts  99-115
Chapter 7 Rival Iconic Texts: Ten Commandments Monuments and the U.S. Constitution  117-134
Chapter 8 Book Aniconism: The Codex, Translation and Beliefs about Immaterial Texts  135-159
Chapter 9 Mass Literacy and Scholarly Expertise  161-166
Chapter 10 Why Books Matter: Preservation and Disposal  167-188

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Conference: Digital Sacred Texts in Dublin, May 2020

A call for papers has been issued for the conference, Digital Sacred Texts: Materiality, Performance, Theory:

The “digital turn” continues to have far-reaching implications, including for the use of sacred texts: from individuals to religious communities to academia, people are increasingly engaging with scriptures in digital formats. For many, this shift from print to digital culture is understood primarily in terms of content: texts are seen as moving from one receptacle (books) to another (electronic formats). There are, however, other important aspects of this transition to consider, including issues of materiality, iconicity, and performance. Texts do not become immaterial when moved to digital formats, but instead are encountered in new material forms. What is gained or lost when a text is used in digital formats, as compared to print culture? How is personal, ritual, or scholarly engagement with sacred texts impacted by the digital turn? Important questions related to the material, performative, and iconic dimensions of sacred texts continue to emerge, even in the digital world.

The School of Theology, Philosophy, and Music at Dublin City University, in collaboration with the Society for Comparative Research on Iconic and Performative Texts (SCRIPT), is pleased to announce a conference exploring “Digital Sacred Texts”, to be held in Dublin, Ireland, on 26-27 May 2020. This conference will focus on sacred texts (broadly understood) and digital culture, giving particular attention to issues of materiality, performance, and theory. Paper proposals are welcome in areas related, but not limited to, the following:

  • semantic, performative, and iconic dimensions of Scriptures in digital formats
  • the transition from print to digital, including technological, social, and religious factors
  • reflection on the materiality of sacred texts in light of digital and electronic formats
  • the use of digital scriptures in personal, liturgical, ritual, academic, and public contexts
  • sacred texts, the internet, and digital devices
  • machine translation and sacred texts
  • critical editions in light of the digital turn
  • reception history and digital culture
  • digital humanities and sacred texts
  • digitization and the accessibility of texts
  • scriptural literacy and digital culture
  • sacred texts and digital pedagogy

Paper proposals should be submitted as an abstract of no more than 300 words. These should be submitted (in Word or PDF format) via email to brad.anderson@dcu.ie, by 10 October 2019. PhD students/postgraduates should include an up-to-date CV (max 4 pages). Registration details coming soon.This conference will focus on sacred texts (broadly understood) and digital culture, giving particular attention to issues of materiality, performance, and theory.

For the conference website, click here. You may also correspond directly with Prof. Brad Anderson at brad.anderson@dcu.ie.