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 they are. Manuscripts get submitted, editors get hired, paper is printed, tomes are bound and sold in every bookstore and online, away from the tired eyes of eager readers. It all happens behind the scenes. Because we don’t see it, it doesn’t mean it’s not there.

It wasn’t always like that. The mechanization of book production revolutionized Western culture, but it would have achieved nothing without centuries of organic, small-scale growth, unmechanical and un-streamlined, with thousands of scribes and bookbinders doing, nonetheless, the impossible: turning hours into words and natural produce into readable products called books.

Every time a medieval abbot decided to send a monk to the scriptorium rather than in the fields, to the stables or into the workshop, it unwittingly created the distant conditions for what makes mould-breaking possible. Only a culture rich in books and conversant with the silent conversation of inked ideas can dare to reinvent itself, to seek out new possibilities at its margin and outside of itself. Such a culture can hope to transcend its own anxieties with purpose and confidence.

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