26 July 2011

Books and Other Fetish Objects

An opinion piece by this title appeared in the New York Times on 16 July 2011.

An excerpt states …
“Apparently historians know the feeling well — the exhilaration that comes from handling the venerable original. It’s a contact high. In this time of digitization, it is said to be endangered. The Morgan Notebook of Isaac Newton is online now (thanks to the Newton Project at the University of Sussex). You can surf it. 

The raw material of history appears to be heading for the cloud. What once was hard is now easy. What was slow is now fast. 

Is this a case of “be careful what you wish for”? “

Read the full thought provoking article.

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1 comment:

  1. But the original artifact still has its own story to tell. Here is a response from the new director of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington:
    To the Editor:

    In “Books and Other Fetish Objects” (Sunday Review, July 17), James Gleick points out that the digitization of rare books and other materials has made these objects vastly more accessible; even if you haven’t paid $21 million for your own Magna Carta, you can download it to your computer screen for virtually nothing.

    Mr. Gleick is right to say that the digitization of precious materials gives them another life on the Web, and that research libraries can and should make these materials available to the broadest possible audience. But if we are interested in what an early document like Magna Carta or a Shakespeare First Folio really means, it is vital to place it among other like objects to know how it was created, used and valued.

    If the Folger Shakespeare Library were to digitize all 82 copies of the First Folio that we possess — each of them unique — we would not have made the book fully accessible. Access is a matter of understanding, and that means, in this case, knowing how such a treasured volume was physically distinguished from its peers.

    It is one thing to look at a digital photograph taken at the top of Mount Everest and feel the thrill of “being there.” It is quite another to pore over the broad pages of Shakespeare’s First Folio (1623) and ask what such a luxurious book meant to those who bought and read it.

    Director, Folger Shakespeare Library
    Washington, July 20, 2011