How to print success (I/III)

Portrait of a Young Man with a Green Book attributed to Giovanni Cariani (1487–1547)- the featured book is a small-format ‘paperback’ printed by Aldus Manutius in the 1500s, ca. 1510–1520, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco We like to celebrate the Jobs’s and the Musks of this world, but we often forget those without whom... Continue Reading →

Seven deadly signs

William Blake, Dante and Virgil Penetrating the Forest (1824-7) When in the midst of our life's way I'd crossed, I found myself inside a forest drear, Because the direct path was long since lost. I took a look around and I could see it was no mere forest. There were no trees blocking the view,... Continue Reading →

We’re still medieval, and it’s a good thing

The web of texts in a 11th-century manuscript containing the poetic works of the Roman poet Horace (main, central text) surrounded by explanations, clarifications and comments, not without some decorative elements to guide the reading (Cologny, Fondation Martin Bodmer, Cod. Bodmer 88) If Jacques Derrida’s famous dictum that ‘there is no outside text’ may hold... Continue Reading →

Breaking the mold

There are books that break the mold and there are times when you need to break the mold to open some books. There are books that trailblaze, others that blaze in the dim fires of oblivion. Modern book cultures are so mechanized that they may give the illusion they’re self-running. And to a certain extent... Continue Reading →

Genes and genius

A French manuscript illumination from 1396 depicting the Greek fabulist Aesop writing at his desk, Paris, BnF, Français 312 f.124r The genius of the medieval period, among all the ages of European history, is that it explored and experimented, innovated and playfully manipulated all the literary genres, styles and modes we have and conceive of... Continue Reading →

Post factum

Adopting a historical perspective is not so much about recovering the truth about the past than reducing the errors involved in the action of looking back. The blessings and the curse of hindsight. Things becomes much clearer when seen after they’ve occurred, after the fact. Yes, but what things? The power of hindsight is the... Continue Reading →

Glue or gloom

One fact about the Middle Ages that only surprised people is that the great majority of books written in the medieval period were left unbound. In a technical sense they were unaccomplished codices, leaves and pages piled together but not sewn, glued or fastened in any way. Flyers in the deep sense of the word.... Continue Reading →

Two bodies, one aim

Kings, more kings - Portraits of the kings of England by Matthew Paris (13th century) in British Library, Cotton MS Claudius D VI, f. 9v. The single most consequential development in human thought, which proved to be humanity’s engine of growth, was the power of abstraction. Moving from some to all, from physics to metaphysics,... Continue Reading →

Texts looking at themselves in the water

Natalia Wallwork, Reflection Print, 2019 There are self-effacing texts, like the ancient epics, which put the reader in control of the text, where every engagement with the text is different, where, even after centuries, the textual energies are inexhaustible, like the hydrogen in the stars. Those texts don't get old, because they look the reader, rather... Continue Reading →

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