An Elegy To the Printed Book

Dear CF,

When an academic book takes a poetic turn, an angel gets its wings. Or a book gets its cover. Or something. This meditation on the physical book—a dying object if ever there was one—is Anne Fadiman-worthy:

To devoted readers of print, the codex seems at once wonderfully portable, hefty, durable, and destructible. As a child, I perched atop a stack of books on a chair to reach the dinner table at a holiday meal. As a college student, I ascended a fog-shrouded mountainside once I’d torn pages from a copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and placed them under rocks to guide my descent. As a graduate student, I learned how to read books not just in the bath but in the shower as well. As the mother of two small children, I have discovered anew the force that books can hold as objects and occasions for rituals. To earmark a page, to remember a passage by its placement midway down a left opening, to scribble a name on a flyleaf: all these acts depend upon the spines, bindings, and pages of printed books, which at once make and hold impressions for their readers.

That’s from Heidi Brayman Hackel’s book Reading material in Early Modern England: print, gender, and literacy. Which, ironically enough, I’m reading online.



One Response to An Elegy To the Printed Book

  1. EmMV says:

    Love the Anne Fadiman-worthy endorsement, especially in the context of an appreciation of books as objects. I have always been impressed with how a book’s technology allows it to open up to where I stopped reading.

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