[Table of Contents] [Search]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: The Philosophy of Bookbinding

>The book is:  E. O. Wilson's latest book, Consilience.  He describes, in
>not too
>strictly scientific terminology, how the mind is actually the brain at work.
>And the brain  takes in, stores, and uses guess what..information, hot or
>cold  as supplied by our sense organs.  There is a lot of information we
>may never know about except from instruments we invent to convey it to our
>sense organs.  For example:
>Some life forms can see colors, hear sounds etc. we cannot except through
>instrumentation we  invent to translate it  for us.
> Would you say that a book maybe is sorta like
>one of these instruments we have invented ?  It helps us receive information
>we might never otherwise know about ?

At the risk of sending this discussion wildly off-topic for this list, I
would argue that a book is a cultural technology that does all kinds of
important things, not the least of which is to ORGANIZE information in a
particular way that makes it understandable (to us, in our culture).

Think about it for a moment: what is the difference between a stack of
papers containing "information" and a bound book containing the same
information? A book is organized -- information follows a particular
progression, the reader has certain expectations about where to find things
(page 3 follows page 2, etc). A book is authoritative -- information
written down and bound into a book is considered much more reliable than
something overheard in the Metro, even though it may be exactly the same
information. A book has fairly rigid conventions about structure. A book
offers a particular tactile experience, which we in our culture associate
with certain values, such as intellectual pleasure or escape, enjoyable
time spent alone, or luxury (beautiful gilt-edged, French leather-bound
volumes, yummm!). An entire haptic theory of the book is waiting to be be

Books as cultural objects signify many many things in our culture, not
least of which are learning, wealth, luxury, elitism... Books are not just
for reading, and they are not just neutral containers for text (which
carries its own cultural/moral baggage). Books carry, promote and inform
entire value systems just by existing at all. And they look cool on the
coffee table (oops, there's another "value!").

One could easily write a phenomenology of the book -- the experience of
buying it, the experience of reading it, the experience of seeing it on the
coffee table, the experience of making it...

What do other cultures make of books? Why were they invented in the first
place? I think that since the Enlightenment, books in our culture have
become "scientific," in that we grant them the same privileged place in our
way of understanding the world that we do science generally.

Which is why we should all make books, don't you think?

Kevin Crombie                              e-mail: kcrombie@dsuper.net
#5 - 224 boul. Saint-Joseph est     voice: (514) 849-7601
Montreal, QC   H2T 1H6

[Subject index] [Index for current month] [Table of Contents] [Search]