Remembering the (almost) forgotten days of the book

Discussion in 'H.I. Cantina' started by Howard Wallace, Jun 11, 2011.

  1. Piso Mojado

    Piso Mojado Basic Member Basic Member

    Jan 11, 2006
    You need a revolving book stand.


    Jefferson had one built for his study in Monticello. Here is a photo which is too big to post. (It is next to his polygraph, which in those days was a device that made a copy of a letter as you wrote it.)

    Here is a video on how to build one yourself.
  2. Steve Tall

    Steve Tall

    Aug 28, 2010
    With a little care, a 50-year-old book can be read today, and probably could still be read 50 years from now (when all of today's Kindles and smartphones will function only as paperweights). Whether or not the excrement hits the ventilation device by then. Just sayin'.
  3. stickfred


    Nov 6, 2009
    I grew up with and remember that set of books Steve. They have an inventive interpretation of the word to the song "La Cucaracha".
  4. tedwca


    Dec 10, 2005

    Same with film. I have negs from 1900 that I can still print. I have digital files from 2003 that I can no longer access. :(
  5. Cpl Punishment

    Cpl Punishment

    Jan 28, 2006
    Heck, there's books that are hundreds of years old, and if you want to go back to handwritten books, they go back millenia that can still be read. I've yet to see a computing device last 20.
  6. redvenom


    Aug 15, 2000
    Aint that the truth.

    Electronic media has a very short life span. I have movies on Lazerdisc which aren't much use except as frisbees. We have a roomful of old archived data tapes at the office that cant be retrieved because the manufacturer of the tape drive has long gone out of business. But you know for sure that real books will still be usable by your grandchildren.

  7. Piso Mojado

    Piso Mojado Basic Member Basic Member

    Jan 11, 2006
    The oldest and most durable books are fire-baked bricks. Even the pocket editions are heavy reading.


    Next in antiquity and durability are papyrus scrolls.


    When protected from air, earth, fire, water, mice and insects, they remain readable over millennia.

    The ancient codex was the immediate ancestor of the modern book. Developed under the Roman Empire to be more portable and concealable than scrolls, it was used for subversive literature like the Christian Bible.


    A papyrus codex is less durable than papyrus scrolls: its weaknesses are its binding and leather covers.

    Papyrus was lost to medieval Europe, and vellum which replaced it was not an improvement. One hundred sixty sheep made the supreme sacrifice to produce this 12th century Codex Gigas:


    The Chinese invention of printing and rag paper made possible the book as we know it. Bibles printed by Johannes Gutenberg in 1455 are eminently readable today.


    Note the hand-drawn versals and ornaments, added to lessen readers' shock and help them adjust to the new technology.

    Fine leather-bound books of the renaissance through the 18th century are cultural treasures of the human race. The beautiful books below are from Beaumarchais's 70-volume edition of Voltaire, printed 1783–1790 in Germany and smuggled into France.


    The industrial revolution of the 19th century brought with it cheap, mass-produced books. If you lived in a city and had a few coins, you had access to big libraries of books, and that was something new in history. But printing and binding suffered greatly, and wood pulp paper made the books ticking chemical time bombs.

    Here is one I was privileged to repair.

    Karl Marx, Kapital. Kritika politicheskoi ekonomii. Translated by Lopatine and Danielson, St. Petersburg: N. P. Poliakov, 1872.


    This is from the bookseller's description that goes with the photograph:

    The spine is split calf glued to cardboard, the way cheap wallets were made before the invention of pleather. The uncoated buckram book cloth is blue under the dirt. Pulp paper, and the signatures are cemented with a 1/4" layer of brown rabbit-hide glue. It is a typical cheap Victorian book, which was published like a tech manual or statistical abstract in a legal edition of 3000 copies. Alexander II's Tsarist ideology was that Russia wasn't capitalist, and that Marx had only exposed the evil of Russia's great enemy, the British Empire. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

    The bookseller is right, the photographed volume is an excellent copy (but not IMO worth £10,000). Mine was split in two, right down the middle of the spine, but I got it back together and recovered it. That was 30 years ago and someone is using it today. In another two generations, the pages will be too brittle to turn, and then it can go into the fire.

    I'm not sentimental about old leather-bound books. Books are for reading, the content is what matters.
  8. Cpl Punishment

    Cpl Punishment

    Jan 28, 2006
    Great info Piso.
  9. lupus55


    Nov 21, 2009
    Hmmm I am in the process of acquiring enough books to fully insulate my house. I love it that all you guys seem to be moving to e-books, more on the shelf at the second hand bookstore for me - Keep it up. I try to read one book a day, but get sidetracked and end up working on 4 or 5 at the same time. The other good thing about getting old, is my increasingly poor memory, I can read the classics again and again and it is like it is new each time. Some people say that mankinds greatest invention was the wheel, or firemaking, I believe it was language and printing. I can get out my copy of the $50 knife workshop and pick up years of knowledge, plus leave it propped open on the workbench for reference. Oh bugger it, I just like them.
  10. TrailingEdge


    Jan 17, 2007
    Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend.
    Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read.
    - Groucho

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