Stuart Kells’s The Library, A Catalogue of Wonders has a section towards the end where the author imagines a library in the future in which. Dreary students gaze mindlessly at computers or reading machines, unaware of the finer pleasures of paper, ink, and vellum.
This is the death of the book, a well-known lament shared by bibliophiles all over the world. It’s a tragic tale in which technology defeats the David Catalogue of culture and art.
While it may seem superficially appealing to others, it is not for everyone. It overlooks the fact that writing is a technology. It is a great technology, just like the lever and the wheel. Writing has existed since before the invention of the book. It is an integral part of the history and evolution of other forms of technology.
Mechanical Marvels In The History Catalogue
For example, take the book wheel. This is the scholar’s technology from the 16th century. It is a clever mechanical device that can operate by foot or hands. The book wheel allows a reader to navigate backwards and fort between. Volumes and editions, and refers to many books at once.
Nearer to our century is the Boston Public Library’s 1895 Book Railways. These tracks laid around the stacks to transport books. The ultra-modern teletype machine, conveyor belt and conveyor belt that were use by. The Free Library of Philadelphia to transport book requests in 1927. The current book retrieval system at the University of Chicago boasts a number of robotic cranes.
I believe that the dream of an infinite library, which can be assemble in bits and pieces wherever a reader requests it to become, is not as fanciful as Kells. This is in keeping with the democratic dream for mass literacy poker pelangi.
Thousand Year Catalogue
An archaeologist may need to work for a thousand years before they can unlock the data on our obsolete floppy disks and CD Roms. It took Jean-Francois Champollion several hundred years to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphs, and Henry Rawlinson even longer to discover the secrets of ancient Mesopotamia’s cuneiform scripts.
Kells’s latest book isn’t a history of writing or reading. It’s a history of books and artifacts. It describes books with a questionable or uncertain provenance that found in private libraries lost or unaccessible. These books either stolen by book thieves or craze book collectors or at the request of wealthy or royal patrons. It’s a story, but it has an unfortunate, cobbled together nature. It is full of strange anecdotes about small numbers of books, and lost books that yield strange surprises, such as discarded condoms or misplaced dental appointment slips.
Kells loves to visit the medieval monks’ libraries, as well as the scandalous and bawdy collections of wealthy patrons of the 18th century. For example, the library at St Gall houses one of largest medieval collections anywhere in the world. The Bodleian at Oxford was not intend to be inclusive, but its founder Thomas Bodley state that it sought to exclude almanackes and plaies and other unworthy matter which he call baggage bookses or riff-raffe.
I love books. I’ve had the opportunity to spend hours in libraries all over the world, including Belgrade, St Petersburg and Buenos Aires. It is hard to believe that this bibliophile can be trusted in these times of economic inequality and privatised public service pay walls, firewalls, and proprietary media platforms not to mention Google or Amazon.
Aiming To Embody A Concept Of Society
When I lived in New York 20 years ago, I made a living as both a copyeditor, and more often as waitress. I also became a regular at 42nd Street Library, also known as New York Public Library. It is located on Fifth Avenue between 40th Street and 42nd Streets. I used to live in Midtown.
I was attracted to the collection’s size, but also the 120-kilometre-long bookshelves that house one of the most important collections in the world. Or the ornate ceilings in the main reading room with 42 oak tables and 636 readers. The bookish dimminess is interrupted only by the soft glow of the reading lamps. The library’s pneumatic system fascinated me.
This labyrinthine device, which was state-of the-art at the beginning of the 20th Century, sent call slips flying through brass tubes, descending deep underground, and down seven stories steel-reinforced stacks, where the book was located. Then, the call slips were sent up on a conveyor belt that curves around to reach the reading room.
With its retro steampunk and defunct book technology, the pneumatic system seemed to suggest a futuristic future. Libraries are more than just books. They can also be social, cultural, and technological institutions. Libraries house not just books, but also the idea of society.