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, November 22, 2021

15th c. gold book pendant



The Smithsonian reports that a metal detector turned up a tiny gold pendant in the shape of an open book in a field near York, England. On its leaves are engraved images of Saints Leonard and Margaret, patron saints of childbirth. the pendant dates from the fifteenth century.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Drawn to the Word: The Bible and Graphic Design, by Amanda Dillon



Drawn to the Word: The Bible and Graphic Design, by Amanda Dillon, has been published by SBL Press (2021), which describes it this way:

A unique study of lectionaries and graphic design as a site of biblical reception

How artists portrayed the Bible in large canvas paintings is frequently the subject of scholarly exploration, yet the presentation of biblical texts in contemporary graphic designs has been largely ignored. In this book Amanda Dillon engages multimodal analysis, a method of semiotic discourse, to explore how visual composition, texture, color, directionality, framing, angle, representations, and interactions produce potential meanings for biblical graphic designs.  Dillon focuses on the artworks of two American graphic designers—the woodcuts designed by Meinrad Craighead for the Roman Catholic Sunday Missal and Nicholas Markell’s illustrations for the worship books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America—to present the merits of multimodal analysis for biblical reception history.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

$43.2 million for US Constitution first printing



Sotheby's auctioned a copy of the US Constitution printed in Philadelphia on Sept. 17, 1787, the last day of the Constitutional Convention. Out of 500 printed, only 13 remain extant. (The manuscript copy signed by the Founders and displayed in the Rotunda of the US National Archives in Washington was penned months later.) The auction price, $43.2 million, was three times higher than Sotheby's estimate. This copy last sold for ... The identity of the winning bidder has not been announced, but the losing bidder was a crowd-funded effort by more than 17,000 people, "many of whom professed their affection for cryptocurrency and the cinematic works of Nicolas Cage, star of National Treasure," according to NPR.

To explain this remarkably high price, commentators refer to the Constitution's iconic status. The Guardian quoted David Brigham, the chief executive of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, saying "this auction and the interest in it reflects something much deeper – the intrinsic value of the US constitution and the fact that it remains the force that binds this nation together. ...  even in a digitised world, being able to see and hold a real document from the time of the Constitutional Convention is a powerful thing.”

Monday, November 8, 2021

Sacred Texts and Digital Cultures


A collection of articles about digital iconic texts, edited by Brad Anderson and Amanda Dillon, appears in  Postscripts 21/1 (2021)

  • Introduction: Sacred Texts and Digital Culture, by Amanda Dillon 
  • Mapping the (Digital) Terrain: Biblical Texts in Digital Contexts, by Bradford A. Anderson and Amanda Dillon 
  • Smartphone Applications and Religious Reading among Swaminarayan Hindus, by Bhakti Mamtora 
  • The Bible as my Witness: Digital Bibles, Visual Anonymity, and Performative Iconicity, by Dorina Miller Parmenter 
  • Satguru’s Word, Online and Offline Contemporary Representation of the “Universal Brotherhood,”
    by Anna Bochkovskaya     
  • Mark’s Ending in the Digital Age: Paratextual Evidence, New Findings and Transcription Challenges, by Mina Monier     
  • Facebook and Martin Luther: Media Technology, Accessibility, and Expertise in Three Dimensions, by James W. Watts     
  • Sacred Texts and Their Subjects, Now and Then, by Mark K. George 
  • Eat, Shit, Scar: Resurrection and the Digital Afterlife of Books and Bodies, by J. Sage Elwell

Wednesday, September 1, 2021