The Dharana of medieval reading

I've always found it surprising that the Western secular world has been unable to salvage any of the meditative practices which the Middle Ages (western, to be clear) had developed and perfected. I'm not going to rewrite the hitchhiker's guide to the medieval period, but if you were a man or a woman living in... Continue Reading →

The book ethic and the spirit of humanism

The paradox about Renaissance humanism, that period of European literate culture running roughly from the 14th to the 16th centuries, is that it is both medieval and modern, at once fully medieval and fully modern. A period of both radical change and piecemeal progression. And in the eye of this storm, the book, an object... Continue Reading →

Screens and revelations

The Universe as a revealing and revealed concentric structure - in a manuscript from Bruges, 1464, London, British Library, Royal MS 19 A IX, f. 149r   It takes perspective to see certain things. Not all things reveal themselves easily, and sometimes one needs special lenses and filters to make one side, angle or aspect visible. We... Continue Reading →

How to print success

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 This article was originally published as a series of three posts. We like to celebrate the Jobs’s and the... 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 →

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