by Bram Stoker
(Registered Alien is a bibliomaniac.)
The Secret Library: A Book-Lovers Guide Through Curiosities of History
by Oliver Tearle
(Michael O'Mara, London, 2016)
The oldest book comprising multiples pages (that is, not simply a big scroll) is often said to be the Etruscan Gold Book, which was produced around 2,500 years ago. It comprises six large sheets of 24-carat gold which have been bound together with rings, thus forming a unified objet that might be labelled a ‘book’.
While the Trojan War lasted for ten years, Homer’s Iliad covers only a few weeks in the final stage of the war - and twenty-two of the twenty-four books which make up the poem cover the events of just a few days.
‘Lesbian’ is a relatively modern term: the earliest known instance of the word being used to describe homosexual women is in a 1925 letter by Aldous Huxley (who later wrote Brave New World), with ‘Lesbianism’ being attested from 1870 in the diary of the dirty Victorian poet Arthur Munby. Before the late nineteenth century, ‘tribade’ and ‘tribadism’ were the usual terms (from the Greek for ‘to rub’). The arrival of ‘lesbianism’ on the scene coincides with growing interest in the work of Sappho.
Euclid’s great talent was in bringing together the theorems arrived at by other mathematicians and presenting the whole field of geometry and trigonometry in a clear and accessible style.
Going to the theatre in ancient Greece was, socially speaking, closer to attending a football match than a modern day theatre.
Tragedy … was designed to have a sort of purging effect upon the community.
The main ‘moral’ of Greek tragedy … seems to be: life isn’t fair.
What made Pliny’s Natural History so influential on later works of science and history was its structure as much as its scope: containing an index as well as references to the original authors for relevant information, it would become a model for subsequent scholarly publications. It was also one of the first books t include a table of contents.
Philogelos proves that the ancients had a ssense of humournot all that different from our own.
A bibliophile, a bibliomaniac, a bibliognost (one who knows books), a bibliophagist (a devourer of books), or a bibliosmiac (a book-sniffer).
The great epic poem Beowulf was virtually unknown and forgotten about for nearly a thousand years.
Although it is often thought of as the first great work of English literature (and often taught on English Literature courses as such), Beowulf, in many ways, has little to do with England. It is a tale about Scandinavians set in Denmark, and told by Germans (the Angles from north-west Germany), although it was written in England after the Angles’ and Saxons’ invasion (they first began to settle in Britain from the fifth century).
Since the word ‘English’ stems from the very Germanic peoples - the Angles - who brought the idea of Beowulf to Britain in the first place, perhaps it might be more appropriate to see Beowulf as the most ‘English’ work of literature there is.
All of the Anglo-Saxon poetry we have, we have because of four manuscripts that survived: the Cotton manuscript (which includes Beowulf), the Exeter Book, the Vercelli book, and the manuscripts of the Bodleian Library at Oxford.
Now it is hard to imagine the story of English literature without Beowulf, but the poem has only attracted the attention it deserves in the last century or two.
It wasn’t named The Divine Comedy by Dante himself, who referred to it simply as the Commedia. His fellow Italian poet Boccaccio called it the Divina, but it wasn’t given the title Divina Commedia until 1555, two and a half centuries after it was written.
Dante is undoubtedly more known about than he is avidly read these days.
Revelations of Divine Love … became the first book written by a woman in the English language.
The most that anyone has ever actually paid for a single book is just under $31 million, when Bill Gates bought the Codex Leicester, better known as Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks.
It takes a certain kind of writer to get their own adjective. Shakespearean, Dickensian, Orwellian: it helps if your work comes to typify, even define, a particular style or theme.
Although the English form of the poem is commonly known as the Shakespearean sonnet, Shakespeare didn’t invent it.
The 1580s were really the first great decade of English theatre. Throughout the Middle Ages, plays had been Catholic entertainments put on in town squares on holy feast days and other special occasions, dramatizing - usually in rather flat, functional dialogue - key events from the Bible such as the Crucifixion and Nativity. It was thanks to the Reformation that things changed. These old Popish displays were deemed unsuitable and offensive, and in their place arose the new phenomenon of the London playhouses.
Elizabethan plays were circulated in manuscript, but few people would possess a copy of an entire play, unless they were published. … Actors in plays would instead receive copies of only those scenes in which they had lines. These lines would be given to the actors on rolls of paper,, which is why we now refer to an actor’s part as a ‘role.’
Don Quixote is actually not one book, but two: the original adventure and its sequel, written a decade after the original book.
In 1697 … an act of parliament ordered signposts to be displayed at key crossroads to reduce the chances of travellers getting lost.
In Margery Kempe’s time, you generally needed special permission to wander the country, otherwise you ran the risk of being arrested as a vagrant.
The imposition of theatre censorship would be just about the best thing that could happen to English literature and the nation’s print culture. Press freedoms were not similarly restricted, and the eighteenth century was truly the age of the newspaper: a new periodical seemed to spring up somewhere in the metropolis every day.
Johnson’s wasn’t the first English dictionary: before his there had been several such works. … But none of these was on the same scale as Samuel Johnson’s dictionary. A far greater size and scope would be what Johnson, in 1755, brought to the table.
It is Johnson’s dictionary that is remembered o the annals of book history. Why? For one, it was also the first dictionary to use citations for the words it listed, with quotations from Shakespeare, Spenser, Milton, and countless other literary sources.
Where Enlightenment championed order and reason, Romanticism sought revolution, emotion, imagination and a return to the natural world. Romantics let their hearts, rather than their minds, govern their decisions.
Romanticism developed the values of the Enlightenment as much as it challenged its emphasis on rationalism and orderliness.
‘Serendipity’ has been called one of the most difficult words to translate.
Paine’s language … was attacked by many for its ‘vulgarity’ - that is, for writing in a way that would appeal to both the middle and working classes. But this was very deliberate on his part, an aspect of his egalitarian nature and his desire to reach out to ‘the common man’.
One of the most persistent ‘charges’ laid against Paine is that he was an atheist In fact, as he makes repeatedly clear in The Age of Reason, he was a deist (that is, one who believes in a Creator but not an intervening God) whose aim was to defend God against the (mis)representations of him in the \old and New Testaments.
But what is Frankenstein really about? … the creation of the monster - or, more accurately, the Creature - is not what makes the Creature turn against his creator. It is Frankenstein’ subsequent rejection of the creature he has made which leads to the creature’s violent and destructive behaviour. The novel is not about bad science, but bad parenting.
Polidori’s vital gift to vampire fiction was to turn the vampire into a sexy Byronic hero: brooding, attractive, and above all, dangerous.
The 1820s were the decade of the vampire craze: suddenly everyone was sinking their teeth into the genre.
A great deal of what is commonly believed about Victorian society and culture is, at best, only partly true. For one thing, they weren’t as prudish about sex as it’s often assumed. It’s true their literature was fairly tight-lipped about goings-on in the trouser area, but this was partly due to the way that Victorian literature was circulated: many people didn’t buy the latest novels but instead borrowed them from their local library. These libraries were generally rather strict about the sort of thing they’d tolerate in the novels they stocked: no sex or swearing, for starters. As a writer, if your novel wouldn’t be stocked by a library such as the mighty Mudie’s circulating library, your readership, and therefore your earnings, would be dramatically diminished.
If you’ve ever wondered why so many Victorian novels are such whopping doorstoppers, it’s partly a canny publishing venture: libraries could effectively lend a copy of the same novel out to three separate borrowers at once, thus tripling their profits. The downside to all this, of course, was that most Victorian fiction is full of children but has nothing to say about how those children got into the world.
It was actually the Victorians who scoffed at the Americans for being so prudish.
A Christmas Carol wasn’t actually the first Christmas story Dickens wrote. It wasn’t even the first Christmas ghost story Dickens wrote.
The term ‘Scrooge’ has entered the language as shorthand for a tight-fisted and miserable person. ‘Bah! Humbug!’ has become a universally recognized catchphrase, although Scrooge only uses it twice in the book.
Despite its phenomenal success, A Christmas Carol didn’t actually make Dickens much money at first. This was largely down to the high production costs of the book, which resulted in Dickens colleting a mere £230 in profits, less than a quarter of what he’d been expecting.
Dickens himself acknowledged the influence of the American writer Washington Irving on his Christmas writings. But Dickens’s book was part of a wider culture which helped to form the modern conception of the Christmas holiday.
Carroll was a shy man who suffered from a stammer throughout his life and was deaf in one ear, the result of a fever he suffered in childhood.
The modern police force and the notion of official crime investigation only came into being in the Victorian era - so it was only then that the detective novel properly arrived on the (crime) scene.
The railways … transformed people’s reading habits.
The mid-Victorian era was the age in which people went in search of a secular bible: a single book that would tell them how to negotiate the bewildering and fast-moving world they found developing around them.
The arrival of the railways changed the way the Victorians went about their lives in the most fundamental manner possible: it changed their very conception of time. Before the age of steam, different towns and cities around Britain ran on their own local time; the railways changed all that for ever. The introduction of standardized time - which was necessary to ensure smooth running of the trains according to the railway timetable - has even been credited with inspiring a greater degree of punctuality among the population. Railway tine became a byword for regularity and precision. The whole country had been brought in line with Greenwich Mean Time by 1880; the Victorian railways had literally invented our modern way of timekeeping.
The man who, after Conan Doyle, probably did more than anyone else to create our idea of the great detective got the job illustrating the Sherlock Holmes stories by accident: Sidney Paget only became the illustrator because of a clerical error. The publishers had meant to hire his younger brother, Walter, but they inadvertently addressed the letter to the wrong brother. It turned out to be one of the most serendipitous mistakes in the world of literary illustration.
Wilde first came to the world’s notice by being effectively one of the first modern celebrities - famous for being, rather than for doing anything in particular.
Dracula and the Sherlock Holmes stories also tap into: the notion of London as a foggy den of vice, crime, and unspeakable horrors. This view of London had also become entrenched in the London consciousness in 1888 by the Jack the Ripper murders, but it was there already, in books such as Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde from 1886.
Life on the Mississippi has a curious claim to fame which is that it was the first book - at least the first one by a high-profile author - to have been ‘written’ on a typewriter. … Twain himself didn’t prepare the typescript for the book, since the typewriter he purchased in 1874 made him so angry it generated a string of expletives (as Twain himself said, ‘When angry, count to four; when very angry, swear’) and he was compelled to give the machine away. So he dictated Life on the Mississippi instead.
Girls’ stories tended to be overly moralistic in their tone and marred by effusive sentimentality. Alcott’s novel changed all that, instead depicting ordinary girls’ lives in a way that real little women could relate to.
Emily Dickinson was far better known as a gardener than as a poet in her own lifetime.
After Ben-Hur and Uncle Tom’s Cabin, it’s estimated that Looking Backward was the biggest-selling American novel published in the entire nineteenth century.
Ben-Hur is often seen as the greatest Christian novel of the entire nineteenth century, which is odd given that the book’s author was self-confessedly ignorant of Christianity, was not a Christian and never belonged to any of its many sects.
Both of the previous film adaptations were silent movies, made in 1907 and 1925. There are rumours that some of the extras involved in the pivotal chariot-racing scene died during the making of the 1959 version, but this is untrue - though one unfortunate stuntman did die during the filming of the chariot-race scene for the 1925 movie.
There was something distinctive about European literature. For one … that perennial literary genre the fairy tale came of age on the Continent, being transferred from an oral tradition to the pages of a book with great ease and, it must be said, staggering popularity. For another, numerous European novelists, especially Russians like Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, seemed to be one step ahead of their Anglophone contemporaries in lifting the lid on the human mind and examining all of the distasteful or nasty bits that lurked within.
Rousseau may be one of the greatest memoirists the world has seen, but as a human being he had more than his fair share of flaws.
Rousseau is sometimes viewed as an early Romantic figure: his writing exhibits an interest in the self and in the primacy of personal experience which we will later find enthusiastically endorsed in the poetry of Wordsworth, Keats, and a host of other figures.
We may think that our concern over sitting down at our desks all day is a modern phenomenon the product of our middle-class white-collar jobs, but Tissot was addressing it some 250 years ago.
War and Peace isn’t even a novel in the usual sense: Tolstoy considered it more of a historical chronicle. Of course, it’s fiction rather than fact, but Tolstoy grounds the lives of his invented characters in a very real, meticulously researched historical Russia. Indeed, he drops the names of many real historical personages into the novel.
One of Tolstoy’s aims in writing such a vast work was to undermine the popular nineteenth-century idea of history as a series of actions carried out by ‘great men’.
The focus on a man’s duality can partly be attributed t Darwin’s theory of evolution, which had brought home that although we ma behave in a civilized fashion most of the time, underneath we are animals, driven by animal impulses. These competing forces of impulsive pleasure-seeker and responsible conscience-stricken control freak are at war with each other everywhere in writing of the late nineteenth century.
Nietzsche’s sister Elizabeth, who became her brother’s executor following his death in 1900, later distorted his work in order to lend credence to her own proto-Nazi leanings. As a result, a narrative has emerged leading straight from Nietzsche’s pen to the crowds at Nuremberg.
The problem is that much of Nietzsche’s satire gets lost in translation or interpretation, and his ironic mockery, unfortunately, makes his attacks on anti-Semitism sound anti-Semitic.
‘Stream of consciousness’, although associated with modernist writing the early twentieth century, was a mid-Victorian coinage rather than a late-Victorian or proto-modernist, metaphor.
The Waste Land is perhaps the most important poem of the twentieth century. It captured the post-war mood in numerous ways: the sense of loss, of despair and alienation, the notion that life had become one long repetitive treadmill of mechanical routine.
It was thanks to Ezra Pound’s friend and fellow American expatriate in Europe, that The Waste Land became the poem we now read. Pound took his red pen to Eliot’s early drafts, halved the poem’s length, and gave it a loose sense of cohesion.
The stronger swear words could not be found in English dictionaries until the 1960s.
A common perception about D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover is that it was the book’s sexual content that led to its being banned. The descriptions of what Lawrence calls ‘this sex business’ and ‘orgasmic satisfaction’ didn’t help, but it was actually more the use of four-letter words than the erotic descriptions of lovemaking that landed Penguin in court for publishing it in 1960.
The point - as with much of Kafka - is that we are not supposed to know the precise thing into which Gregor has metamorphosed. The vagueness is part of the effect: Gregor is any and every unworthy or downtrodden creature, shunned by those closest to him.
The difference is that androids and cyborgs resemble real human beings, whereas robots don’t.
Along with Samuel Pepys’s diary from nearly three centuries before, Anne’s Diary of a Young Girl is probably the most famous diary ever kept.
The similarities between Crichton and Conan Doyle are curious: both trained in medicine, both wrote novels called The Lost World, both wrote novels set in the fourteen century (The White Company and its prequel Sir Nigel in the case of Conan Doyle, and Timeline in Crichton’s). Jurassic Park, Crichton’s most commercially successful novel, was effectively a clever updating of the premise of Conan Doyle’s 1912 classic.
The way we read, write or buy books: they had brought about a change in the very ways we think, the ways we experience the world.
The physical design of the book may have evolved, but one thing remains constant: books of one kind or another are still a treasure part of our culture.
Little Golden Book of Christmas Stories
(Golden Books, New York, 2015)
It was only his first Christmas, but Poky had already learned that the best gifts of all are the ones you give.
G is for Giving of gifts to each other.
A package for Daddy and something for Mother,
And let’s give a present to some girl or boy
Who surely would like a nice Christmas toy.
Christmas gifts look so pretty when wrapping is done.
She does not sing very well, but nobody minds because it is Christmas.
by Keith Houston
(New York, W.W. Norton & Co.2016.)
Papyrus, the paperlike material upon which the ancient world wrote its books and conducted its business, is every bit as Egyptian as the pyramids, or mummies that have since eclipsed it - and it was, in its day, considerably more important than either.
The inhabitants of the fertile Nile delta cultivated papyrus for papermaking purposes from the fourth millennium BCE onward, though papyrus reeds were adapted to a bewildering array of other uses too. It was a veritable wonder plant: to the ancient Egyptians, papyrus was an essential part of life, and not only as a writing material.
Papyrus stood in for wood in ancient Egyptian boatbuilding, especially for the simple, flat-bottomed punts used for hunting and harvesting in the Nile’s papyrus swamps.
In Egyptian myth, the goddess Isis sailed the Nile on a papyrus boat to search for fragments of the body of Osiris, her husband (and her brother, so the story goes), and it was said that the river’s crocodiles feared to attack any such craft lest they encounter a wrathful deity aboard it instead of a cowering human.
Some translations of the Old Testament say that the basket in which Moses was hidden among the reeds of the Nile’s shores was made from papyrus.
Aside from its dubious value as a footstuff, papyrus was a common ingredient in medicinal preparations: papyrus ash healed ulcers; macerated with vinegar, it treated wounds; the pressed juice relieved eye complaints; and, somewhat redundantly, it was mixed with wine to cure insomnia.
Papyrus’s centrality in the daily lives of Egyptians was a potent symbol of the land, its traditions, and its social strictures.
Priests were forbidden from wearing sandals made from anything except papyrus, and the temples over which they presided featured columns modeled after the papyrus stem.
Egyptian tradition, as recounted by the Greek philosopher Plato, told that hieroglyphics had been handed down by the ibis-headed god Thoth.
It is thought that the earliest hieroglyphics were create by one person (or a small number or people) over a short period of time, thus explaining their seemingly miraculous appearance in Egypt toward the end of the fourth millennium BCE.
Papyrus scrolls regularly lived productive lives of hundreds of years. The best scrolls were supple enough to be rolled and unrolled many times, provided that their readers took care to not fray their exposed edges.
Papyrus sheets hold together in all but the wettest environments (as long as it is dried under pressure, it is possible to soak a sheet of papyrus in water for days without causing irretrievable damage), though the mold and bacteria that thrive in damp conditions are hazardous to its well-being.
Modern papyrus is crackly, rigid, and scratchy in a way that is at odds with the smooth, pliable material described in Natural History.
Parchment was smoother, springy, and resilient where papyrus was rough, brittle, and prone to fraying.
The invention of parchment is traditionally ascribed to King Eumenes II of Pergamon, ruler from 197 to 159 BCE of a Greek city-state located in what is now northwestern Turkey.
Tough flexible, and water resistant, leather was a surprisingly accommodating writing surface, capable of being worked to any desired smoothness and absorbing ink well, but it lacked the rigidity, delicacy, and portability that made papyrus an ideal vehicle for writing.
Whereas leather is soft and limp, a sheet of parchment flexed gently across its surface readily springs back to its original shape and will hold a crease if folded more firmly.
Parchment was stronger than papyrus.
Christianity embraced parchment as eagerly as had its elder sibling, and the spread of the new religion throughout the Western world mirrored the ongoing shift in writing materials. By the fifth century CE, more Christian books were written on parchment than papyrus and there were more Christian books than any other kind.
By the thirteenth century the needs of bookmaking monks were being met by a new breed of professional parchmenters.
The French connection also gave rise to a related term: whereas “parchment” carried connotations of the sheep and goats most commonly farmed in the land of its origin, “vellum,” from the Old French vel, or “calf,” suggested calfskin instead.
The distinction between parchment and vellum, however, has always been an uncertain once, and today “vellum” is used to mean any especially fine parchment regardless of the animal from which it was made.
If you love parchment it is perhaps best jot to see it being made.
The world runs on paper. … In the age of email, websites, and e-books, our dependence on paper has grown, not lessened.
Paper, however, was entirely absent from the world in which books first came about. The form of the book was fixed long before paper arrived to meet it, and yet, within a few centuries of that meeting, paper had displaced parchment as surely as parchment had pushed aside papyrus. Without paper, there is not book as we know it today.
Paper’s importance is obvious enough today, but our understanding of who invented it, where, and why, remained hopelessly confuse for centuries after the material itself had all but taken over our books.
Bamboo was t China what papyrus was to Egypt.
Though silk has since been firmly overtaken by paper, its unique qualities still recommend it.
Bamboo was heavy and silk was expensive; as the demands of literate, bureaucratic China increased, a new writing material was needed.
Paper can be made from a huge variety of materials - asparagus stalks, bark, cactus, cotton, ivory, leather, manure, moss, nettles, papyrus (reeds or sheets), peat, pollen, potatoes, rhubarb, satin, seaweed, straw, sugar cane, tobacco, thistles, wood pulp, wool, and more.
Alongside gunpowder, the magnetic compass, and printing … paper has taken its place as one of ancient China’s “four great inventions.”
He secret of paper, as with silk before it, was jealously guarded by the ancient Chinese.
The way we store paper is at least as important as how we make it.
Chinese Buddhist monks were required to learn the arts of paper-, ink-, and brush-making so that they could produce written tracts for their new flocks, and in their missionary zeal they took papermaking to Korea and Japan in the east, Indochina in the south, and India in the west. Beyond China’s sphere of influence, however, the spread of paper was checked; to go no farther, it would rely on a new and energetic religion.
By the time papermaking had traversed Iran, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Morocco, Sicily, and finally Spain, three centuries after the first mills had opened in Baghdad, the Arabs had transformed it form a cottage industry into a bona fide manufacturing enterprise.
The use of paper suffused Arab life.
Parchment had long been the writing medium of choice for God-fearing Christians, and they looked askance at the material favored by the infidels. … Distrust of Muslim paper intensified to such an extent that in 1221 the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, one of Europe’s most powerful medieval rulers, declared t hat any government document henceforth written on paper was invalid.
Today, watermarks are typically used to tie a sheet of paper to its manufacturer, but what medieval papermakers meant by them remains unclear.
When Johannes Gutenberg’s movable type did away with that problem in the 1450s, book production exploded and papermakers found themselves back at square one. They could sell paper as fast as they could make it, but they could make it only as quickly as they could acquire the necessary supply of linen rags.
By the close of the sixteenth century parchment was an order of magnitude more costly and had noticeably worsened in quality. Parchment lingered on as the material of choice for lofty or otherwise important works.
At the end of the “long” nineteenth century, the protracted spasm of war, revolution, and industrialization that remade the globe, the paper industry was transformed. Books were still books, of course, bound in board and leather and composed of the same old paper, but the book industry had grown enormously.
Back in the early part of the nineteenth century, as consumers became accustomed to the neatness and homogeneity of machine-made products, so the prevailing sense of aesthetics had changed to match the new means of production. Readers wanted their paper to be as bright, white, and smooth as possible, and papermakers adjusted their recipes to match.
The very air of the Industrial Revolution conspired against books, with coal-fired power plants belching out sulfur dioxide that leached into paper, making it even more acidic, while the coal gas with which homes and libraries were heated and lit had similarly deleterious effects.
In the 1980s, when the Library of Congress first tackled the issue of brittle books, it estimated that 25 percent of books owned by large American research libraries - 75 million volumes in all - would crumble to dust if handled.
The first, inadvertent steps toward more permanent paper came in the nineteenth century as papermakers were put under pressure to both improve the quality of their products and reduce costs.
The size of an expected print run, the printing technologies and paper specifications required to do justice to a book’s contents, and the demands of a prospective audience can all sway a publisher’s decision to choose longevity over cost or vice versa.
Though paper books masquerade as resolutely old-fashioned artifacts, their production is thoroughly modern.
When the first cuneiform inscription was published in 1657 after its discovery by an Italian traveler named Pietro della Valle, contemporary thinkers singularly failed to perceive its significance.
The key to understanding the symbols on these early tablets, in fact, is that they were accompanied by marks intended to convey numbers: the first written document in the history of the world was very probably a farmer’s sales receipt.
Cuneiform was not true alphabet, in which even individual syllables are broken down into abstract letters, but it looked a lot like one.
Ostraca, as those makeshift media are called, after the ancient Greek for “earthenware vessel” or “hard shell,” were ubiquitous in Egypt and throughout the ancient world.
The ancient Egyptians hankered for a writing surface more portable than hundred-ton obelisks and possessed of a little more gravitas than sherds of broken pottery. The solution was the papery sheets the Egyptians made form laminated strips of papyrus reed pith.
The Egyptians wrote with brush and ink, and they did so with a fluency and grace entirely absent from the writing of their Mesopotamian counterparts.
Ink, like papyrus, is very nearly as ancient as writing itself.
Scribes were a celebrated part of Egyptian culture and a popular subject for stonemasons, sculptors, and painters.
Scribes wrote like artists paint, holding their brushes perpendicular to the papyrus an inch or two from the tip to produce deliberate, even strokes.
The Greeks and Romans viewed Egypt with a mixture of disdain and awe. … The Romans in particular were so fond of such treasures that today there are more Egyptian obelisks in the city of Rome than there are in the whole of Egypt.
The ancient Greeks wrote with pens, not brushes, that they called calami after the hollow reds or canes from which they were carved.
The Egyptians’ rushes made for broad, even strokes, the narrow, flat nib of a calamus on papyrus created the conspicuous variation between thick and thin strokes that characterizes handwritten manuscripts from the Middle Ages until the modern day. If Egyptian brushes were blunt felt-tip markers, Greek calami were neat, precise fountain pens.
Water-based ink could be washed off papyrus if it absolutely had to be erased, but it was perfectly permanent otherwise. The parchment that was set to replace papyrus, however, was more problematic: water-based ink sat precariously on parchment’s impenetrable surface, and once dry it flaked off at the slightest provocation. A new writing material demanded a new kind of ink.
Parchment was so expensive that it would have been unthinkable to discard a book whose contents were no longer necessary or relevant, and so the concept of the “palimpsest” was born: taken from the Greek palimpsestos, or “scraped again,” a palimpsest is a document that has been erased and then reused.
The scribe’s art was an inherently conservative one and the arrival of iron gall ink set the template for book writing for centuries to come. A split-nib quill pen, a pot of iron gall ink, and a smooth sheet of parchment were the pillars of the scribe’s draft form the establishment of the Roman Empire until the height of the Renaissance.
In an era when a handwritten Bible commanded a price equivalent to a laborer’s yearly wage, the ability to print an endless run of books must have appeared as a license to mint Rheingulden.
It bears mentioning that Johannes Gutenberg, the “father of printing,” was most definitely not the inventor of printing.
As enticing as Chinese ink was to calligraphers and doctors, it was a stumbling block for Chinese printers who tried to move beyond simple woodblock printing. Their water-based ink did not adhere well to metal, earthenware, or porcelain and produced blotchy, indistinct images.
Chinese paper was too delicate to withstand the pressure needed to form a crisp impression, requiring that printers use handheld brushes rather than firm mechanical processes to impress their paper onto their type. Not only that, China’s water-based ink tended to seep through the paper and made it impossible to print on both sides of a sheet.
The mechanics of movable type weighed against it: printers found that it was often faster to cut entire pages in wood, as had been done since time immemorial, than it was to set, print from, and distribute movable type on a page-by-page basis. China’s printers were hamstrung by the writing they sought to reproduce.
Though he had not invented the idea of movable type, if Gutenberg is to be credited with anything it must be that he made it work - that he systematically tackled each aspect of a finicky, delicate process until he had perfected it.
Gutenberg was not the father of printing so much as its midwife.
The hand mold was the key to the entire scheme; without this groundbreaking device, Gutenberg could never have produced enough type.
Ink was crucial to Gutenberg’s success. As Chinese printers had found to their cost, water-based ink was unsuited to metal type, and analysis of the surviving Bibles has shown that Gutenberg used instead something closer to the vivid, viscid oil paints popular in the art world of his day.
Until the Industrial Revolution made ink a mass-produced commodity, most printers made their own by boiling linseed oil and then mixing in pigment.
The force of Gutenberg’s press had to be carefully calibrated: too little and the paper would receive only a patchy impression; too strong and the fragile lead type would be crushed.
Though Gutenberg had deliberately aped the Gothic handwriting favored by the Church, and though the text was organized in an entirely conventional manner, each page of the Bible that came off the press was a revolution writ small. Contemporary observers unaware of Gutenberg’s art were dumbfounded by the evenness of the individual letters, the exacting alignment of the text as a whole, and the unwavering perfection of the margins.
The Bibles themselves betray the precise point at which their creator’s financial worries overcame his sense of aesthetics: the first nine pages of each copy have a relaxed forty lines of text; page ten has forty-one so as to cram in a little more, and each of the more than twelve hundred pages that follow bear forty-two lines each, giving rise to the common nickname of the “42-line Bible.”
Decoration was carried out according to the buyer’s whim.
The 180-odd resultant Bible were all spoken for, if not yet paid for in full. It was an incredible achievement, and it was snatched away from its chief architect almost immediately.
Within fifteen years of the publication of Gutenberg’s 42-line Bible there was a printing press in every country in Europe, and the making of books had changed forever.
More books were made in the first half century after Gutenberg’s Bible than in the receding thousand years put together, and book production only accelerated from there: 12.6 million incunabula were printed between 1454 and 1500 (these earliest books are known by the Latin word for “cradle” or “swaddling clothes”), and book production subsequently more than tripled every hundred years. In the second half of the eighteenth century, western Europe alone had printed more than 600 million books.
From the very first days of printing, the penning of tirades against the process became a favorite pastime among the intelligentsia, and particularly among those who saw a moral value in the patient copying-out of texts.
The nineteenth century’s continuous innovation in printing technology helped newspapers grow from four-page weeklies in the 1820s to sixteen-page dailies by the 1880s - and put an alarming strain on the surrounding publication pipeline.
The mechanized presses of Freidrich Keonig and William Bullock throw an unforgiving spotlight on the human compositors who typeset the newspapers, advertisements, and books to be printed on them. The composing stick could not match a steam-driven press.
Newspapers preferred Linotype, while bookmakers favored Monotype.
Almost every book printed between 1900 and 1950 was the product of a Linotype, a Monotype, or one of their many clones.
By the mid-twentieth century, relief printing was running out of steam. The method of printing that had been used for more than a thousand years - the inking of a raised surface sculpted into letters and other characters - was being supplanted by sophisticated photographic and “lithographic” techniques, where flat plates were sensitized to attract or repel ink to form letters and illustrations alike. …. “Phototypsetting” was mechanical typesetting’s last gasp.
The printed book maybe a stolidly analog artifact, but its making is n unerringly digital matter.
A thousand miles from beleaguered Rome, the island of Ireland on Europe’s western edge had escaped the worst of the turmoil. Ireland had always been a rural backwater by Roman standards, lacking roads, cities, and even towns of any great size, and yet it was here that the first flickers of a new kind of bookmaking a rose in the wake of Rome’s fall. The catalyst was the arrival of a new religion among the pagan túatha, the Irish tribes: Christianity came to Ireland in 431, introduced there by a bishop named Palladius and reinforced by the ministry of a Roman Briton named Patricius.
Patrick came to Ireland in the fifth century; the island was studded with monasteries by the sixth, and by the seventh the scribes of these centers of religious life were experimenting with new forms of decoration and bookmaking, the better to reflect God’s glory in the written word.
From the middle of the second millennium BCE, more and more Egyptians chose to be buried with copies of what early archaeologists thought was a religious text - an untranslated tract presumed to be akin to the Bible or the Qu’ran. But when one such scroll was deciphered in the nineteenth century it transpired that the “Book of Going Forth by Day,” as the test called itself, focused less on how to behave in this life than it did the next. The purpose of the book was to help its reader to reach the afterlife, whether they were a pharaoh, an aristocrat, or a commoner, and to tip the scales of the final judgment in their favor. Its translator, a Prussian named Karl Richard Lepsius, nicknamed it das Todtenbuch - “the Book of the Dead” - and his plainspoken shorthand title caught the popular imagination.
A desert tomb, it turn s out, is a very good place in which to preserve a papyrus scroll. One of the main reasons that the Book fo the Dead is so well studied is because so many copies have survived, their colorful illustrations intact for Egyptologists to pore over endlessly.
That the Greeks and Romans were prodigious artists is not in dispute - our museums are full of painted vases and classical sculptures, and our cities are littered with buildings that emulate the columns and porticoes of ancient Roman and Athens - but our understanding of how they illustrated those books is woefully incomplete.
The celebrated Book of Kells. Completed sometime around the year 800, it was the vehicle for all that had been learned since Columba’s time. It may be the most famous single book in the Western World.
The Book of Kells was both the pinnacle of the Irish monastic scribes’ art and their last great work before the ugliness of the outside world intruded upon their cloistered lives.
Irish scribes had developed a rounded “insular” style of handwriting that was quite different from the angular roman letters favored on the Continent.
Irish monks began to add spaces between words to make their writing duties less onerous. The Book of Kells and its contemporaries are as important for what they tell us about the state of the art in writing practices as what they reveal about art itself.
At the stern urging of the Carolingian dynasty’s greatest son, the monasteries of Europe became the last refuge of the book on a largely illiterate continent.
Ironically, Charlemagne himself could not read or write - on sleepless nights he sat us with parchment and pen, trying over and over to master the letters of his name.
Banned from speaking aloud while at work, the margins of the pages on which they wrote became outlets for endless grousing about physical maladies and working conditions.
Other than the church itself, the scriptorium was one of the most important features of a medieval monastery.
Discipline in the scriptorium was strict. Forbidden from speaking aloud, monks signaled to one another in a rudimentary sign langue or passed notes like naughty schoolchildren. Supervisors hovered vigilantly at scribes’ shoulders, and workers could leave only with the permission of the abbot.
Scribes formed a kind of production line. Parchment, quills, ink, and gold were fed in at one end, and from the other emerged manuscripts of carefully regimented text set off by images leaping out from shining fields of gold.
Just as Johannes Gutenberg deliberately mimicked the handwriting of his era, so did many of the earliest printed books faithfully replicate the faint guidelines found in the best medieval manuscripts.
Monasteries employed both skilled antiquarii, who specialized in careful, “antique” writing, and scriptores, less practiced scribes entrusted with more mundane tasks.
Fewer than one in a hundred surviving Carolingian manuscripts are illustrated in any meaningful way. Even in the fifteenth century, at the very height of the craft, less than one manuscript in every ten was illuminated. This sort of embellishment was reserved for the most revered texts, and later, for the wealthiest clients.
The inks used were similar to modern tempera paints consisting of a pigment suspended in a binding medium such as egg white, but they were adulterated with additives such as urine and earwax to achieve the desired consistency, color, and opacity. The pigments themselves spoke of a wold well accustomed to international trade.
Always a reflection of the societies that had made them, books were changing in response. Once the preserve of monasteries and churches, they made their way out into the wider world, coveted as status symbols by wealthy private citizens.
Gutenberg’s printing press, which churned out books too rapidly for them to be illustrated by hand, is often blamed for killing off the illuminated manuscript, but that is only part of the story.
The China that Marco Polo viewed during the thirteenth century - Cathay, he called it, from the name of a Uighur dynasty that had ruled some centuries earlier - was a technological superpower.
The use of paper money whose value was determined by the state rather than being inherent in some precious substance - “fiat money,” as it is known - was perhaps the greatest financial innovation the world had ever seen.
Barely 1 in 20 Western manuscripts of Poo’s time were written upon paper (to a European scribe, paper would have ben scarcely les exotic than parchment is today), but in China the “paper of Marquis Cai” had long since replaced bamboo and silk as the wiring material of choice.
The origins of printing in China are mired in uncertainty.
The key to the invention of printing lies in its name: yin, in its original sense, referred to the act of authenticating a document with the impression of a seal in clay, and the tradition runs deep in Chinese history.
Ancient seals have been found made out of everything from copper to gold, soapstone, jade, ivory, and rhinoceros horn, and surviving wooden and bamboo documents, sealed with telltale impressions in clay, show how widely those seals were used.
Rather than stamp their seals into wet clay, the Chinese now daubed them with ink and pressed them onto paper and silk. Yin, “to seal,” took on a new meaning, ‘to print.”
China had long carved its most important tests and images in stone to preserve them for posterity, but this sliver of paper showed that these stones were not simply monuments but also master copies that could be duplicated over and over again by means of an “inked squeeze,” or rubbing.
The Chinese people turned to a new religion to help make sense of their predicament and, as in the West, their monks and monasteries became the guardians of literary traditions. Buddhism had come to China, brought there by itinerant priests following the Silk Road form India, and with them had come a vast body of religious texts.
While scribes in Europe toiled away with their quills, Chinese printers were printing comprehensively illustrated books by the hundreds and thousands.
Woodblock printing agreed with China’s sense of aesthetics but moveable type did not.
In the early ninth century … China’s burgeoning Buddhist community had cast so many copper statues of the Buddha that the country was beginning to run out of the raw material from which to mint its coins.
The technology behind each and every Chinese banknote wold have dumbfounded a contemporary Western scribe or artist.
Copies of Rustichello’s record of Polo’s travels circulated widely among scholars and historians during the century that followed Polo’s death, and for many years the text stood as Europe’s primary source of knowledge on the lands and peoples of the mysterious East.
There is no evidence that Marco Polo brought boodblocks back from China or that he ever explicitly referred to the process of printing except as it related to the use of seals on banknotes. Even then, Polo was hardly unique in his admiration for China’s paper money: at least seven other European travelers of his era mentioned it, and to a man, the Venetian and his contemporaries were more concerned with the financial possibilities of this radical form of currency than they were with the methods of its production.
By the year 1400 or thereabouts, half a century before Gutenberg printed his first book, the ancient Chinese art of woodcut printing had begun its quiet overthrow of Europe’s laboring ranks of scribes.
If the money, fame, and legal wrangling it engendered were anything to go by, by the early sixteenth century woodcut printing had well and truly arrived.
The relationship between woodcut printing and movable type is an unsolved question of chicken and egg.
The oily inks employed by Johannes Gutenberg and his disciples suited woodcut printing every bit as well as lead type.
Fewer than 1 in 10 handwritten books had ever been illustrated, even at the height of the illuminated manuscript’s dominance, but by 1550, less than a century after Pfister’s first woodcut-illustrated book, more than half of all printed books were illustrated in one way or another.
Dürer, Titian, and company had pushed the woodcutter’s craft as far as it could go, and prints made from wooden blocks simply could not reproduce the level of detail their creators desired. To borrow a modern term, woodcut was too low-res.
Intaglio printing offered a precision entirely absent from woodcut, an ability to faithfully reproduce fine details and subtle variations in tone with cross-hatching and lines of varying width.
The Renaissance is remembered as a buoyant tide of science, literature, and culture that carried Europe out of the Middle Ages and into the modern era. But progress toward a more intellectual way of life did not dampen the Continent’s enthusiasm for robustly traditional pursuits such as jousting, territorial disputes, and outright war, and military technology advanced as steadily as did the arts.
By the end of the eighteenth century etching had supplanted woodcuts as the default medium for book illustration.
Today, virtually all books are printed using the lithographic process.
Developed separately in both sides of the English Channel, by Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre and William Henry Fox Talbot respectively, and unveiled near-simultaneously by both men in 1839, the new art of photography was futuristic as wood engraving was old-fashioned.
To truly marry books and photographs, printers needed to convert analog photography to digital print.
By the 1960s, web-fed offset lithographic presses had united with photolithography to be crowned as the undisputed champions of mass-produced printing.
Each of the pages in the printed editions of this book is essentially a single illustration - a combination of text and imagery broken down into pixels too small for the eye to see.
When we read a book’s text, we are looking at a picture too.
The Egyptians invented something else too, during that frantic period at the dawn of writing. To borrow the Oxford English Dictionary’s words on the subject, Egypt’s scribes had figured out how to combine individual sheets of papyrus to make “portable volume[s] consisting of a series of written, printed, or illustrated pages bound together for ease of reading”; they had invented the book, in other words, in the form of the papyrus scroll.
The books of the ancient world were made from long series of papyrus sheets trimmed to matching heights and pasted together, to be rolled up for storage and unrolled for reading. What we do not know, however, is why the scroll ever came about in the first place.
Ancient scrolls are often found with their lower edges rubbed away by their readers’ clothing.
Scrolls were both more convenient and more durable than single sheets of papyrus.
Joins between pages were always arranged so that each sheet overlapped the one to its left - the Egyptians’ hieroglyphic and demotic scripts ran from right to left and so a scribe’s pen would slip easily over a joint rather than catch on an exposed edge. (The Greeks and Romans, who wrote from left to right, rotated their scrolls by 180 degrees to achieve the same effect.)
A scrolls’ sheets were always aligned so that the fibers on its writing surface ran horizontally, which made for a smoother writing experience and saved the horizontal fibers from being stretched too tightly around the scroll as it was rolled up.
The Ptolemies attracted scholars with tax breaks and free accommodation.
The Mouseion’s crown jewel was the fabled Library of Alexandria, reputed to contain some 700,000 scrolls. And just as a visit to any modern library reveals shelf after shelf of nigh-identical books, each one a variation on the same basic design, a visiting scholar at Alexandria would have been greeted by endless rows and cubbyholes of scrolls all produced according to a common standard.
A scroll’s height was governed by the size of its constituent sheets - a scrupulous scroll maker would use top-of-the-range sheets of hieratica, if they could get it, which Pliny described as thirteen “digits” (around ten inches) on a side - while its length was dependent on the number of sheets from which it was made.
Columns were a few inches wide, depending on the scribe’s preference, and they were constrained by the scroll’s height to a few tens of lines each.
Rolled-up scrolls were stored vertically in jars and horizontally on shelves, with protruding tags affixed to one end so they could be identified without having to be unrolled.
Greeks and Romans often read aloud as they worked their way through written works, and so a given scroll would invariably “say only one and the same thing” as it passed through the hands of different reads. Unlike today’s hushed reading rooms, the chambers of the Library of Alexandria and other like it would have been noisy places.
Little wonder … that archaeologists are skeptical about ancient boasts that the Library of Alexandria held some 700,000 scrolls - no building remotely large enough to house such a collection has yet been found in old Alexandria, and current guesses place the library’s holdings at 35,000 to 40,000 volumes.
Searching for a favorite passage or reading through an unfamiliar work, “scrolling” through a scroll demanded their full attention. It takes two hands to simultaneously unfurl a bookroll at one end and roll it up at the other; there is no way to casually prop open a scroll in one hand while sipping rom a glass of wine held in the other.
Except in Egypt, which was firmly wedded to papyrus scrolls, writing tablets were the everyday notebooks of the ancient world.
Erasure put wax writing tablets millennia ahead of their time. It was not until the invention of the graphite pencil in the sixteenth century, whose marks could be rubbed out with a piece of bread, that there was there an equally convenient way to selectively emend one’s writing.
Whereas a modern reader presented with a diptych would automatically hold it vertically, with its hinged edge running top-to-bottom like a book’s spine, ancient illustrations show scribes grasping them horizontally with a “top” page and a “bottom” page, like a laptop computer.
The origins of the codex are every bit as obscure as those of its ancestors.
A large part of what is known about humanity’s past has been divined form contents of the piles and pits of refuse that surrounded our settlements. History, it turns out, is written not by the strongest but by the messiest.
Speculation about a missing link between the scroll and the codex first arose toward the end of the nineteenth century. Its subject was the orihon, or concertina-folded book, a mythical scroll-codex hybrid that seemed to present believable I f not definitive proof that the one had evolved into the other.
The Chinese and the Mayans invented their concertina books independently, and if the orihon ever existed in ancient Egypt then it lived and died there without a trace.
The first paged books may not have had anything to do with books at all.
In Egypt, Greece, or Rome, the smooth running of the ancient world was predicted on the exchange of letters. Politics, business, and family matters were managed by correspondence between friends, allies, patrons, and clients. … It is the interplay between the content and the physical form of these letters that some academics think explains the creation of the paged book.
By the time the Roman Empire, the exchange of letters had grown into its own literary genre: philosophers laid out their ideas in letters, and politicians disseminated their gest speeches; and the adherents of religious movements, like the Christians, built entire books around the letters of their most trusted disciples.
The earliest complete papyrus codices were all made so that the joins inherited from their parent scrolls run parallel to their spines, and the text perpendicular to both.
Parchment begs to be bound into a paged codex or similar form.
It may be that papyrus books were created by letter writers in Egypt, and spread northward from there to Greece and Rome; alternatively, the parchment codex may have been invented by the Greeks or Romans, closer to that material’s spiritual home in Pergamon, and later adapted to use the plentiful local papyrus of Ptolemaic Egypt.
Working with the vast body of books housed in the world’s libraries, museums, and private collections, codicologists, or those who study the history of the paged book, have built up a minutely detailed timeline of every change in materials, binding technique, and design from the fourth century onward.
For book historians … the Nag Hammadi codices were of paramount importance: they were a gnosis of sorts in and of themselves, a time capsule that had preserved a small part of the lost world of ancient bookmaking for posterity.
The Nag Hammadi codices display certain self-evident truths about how books should be made. Most basic of all is their fundamental shape: each page is taller than it is wide, by a factor of around four to three, making them almost exactly the same size and aspect ratio as a sheet of letter paper.
Historians have never agreed on why papyrus books were rectangular: one theory is that pages were bound along a longer edge because it produced a more robust text block; another is that the columnar layout commonly used in scrolls naturally translated to pages that were taller than they were wide.
The history of the paged book as we know it started in 333 CE, almost seventeen centuries ago.
As late as the seventeenth century books were most often laid flat on their bookshelves with the front cover facing upward, rather than stored vertically. Many medieval bookcases were almost like lecterns, their shelves angled downward so that books could proudly display their decorated covers.
With the adoption of double-cord binding, the form of the book was effectively standardized.
In the eleventh century, the act of sewing books together was made easier by the invention of the “sewing frame,” a pair of parallel wooden bars between which cords or tapes could be stretched taut.
Endpapers are any leaves at the front and back of a book that are pasted to the inside of the boards.
Endpapers have always served a practical purpose in anchoring the text block to the cover, and when marbled papers, decorated with swirls of color became available in the seventeenth century, they became a way for bookbinders to inject some personality into their products.
At first, Western bookmakers preferred stiff, wooden boards that could be fastened or even locked shut to stop parchment pages from curling.
As readers began to shelve their books into tightly packed vertically aligned rows, there was less of a need for lockable, rigid boards to hold their parchment pages in place.
Leather lends itself to being decorated by “blind tooling,” a process where heated metal tools are applied to moistened leather to leave a permanent indentation.
It was not until the sixteenth century, when books began to be shelved vertically, with their spines facing out that titles and authors names finally began to appear on their covers.
By the nineteenth century, gilt-tooled book covers of delicate leather had become so exquisite - and so easily damaged - that they themselves needed protection: the earliest surviving dust jacket, a plain paper wrapper sealed with wax, dates to 1830.
“Anthropodermic bibliopegy,” or the binding of books in human skin.
Most of the books made in Europe and the United States, paperbacks and hardbacks alike, have long since stopped being sewn together in any way at all.
Bookmakers fiddled around the edges of their craft, refining methods, materials, and tools by degrees, but the basics remained the same. What changed instead was whom books were for, and what they were supposed to look like.
The idea of the modern book, the fact that handy, affordable books such as this one exist at all is a direct result of a pattern established in the intellectual, mercantile, and artistic crucible of Renaissance Venice - and it all hinges on the size of a sheet of paper.
The oldest books in the world are almost exactly the same width as this one, and a scant couple of inches taller.
Very few ancient books were wider than they were tall, helping keep the stresses and strains on their spines to a reasonable level.
Literary tastes may have changed since then, but the breadth of our arms, the span of our hands, and the workings of our brains are still much the same as they were in the fourth century.
Books are rectangular because cows, goats, and sheep are rectangular too.
Papyrus codices were often constructed in the same way as parchment books. Papyrus does not have a hair side or a flesh side, of course, but it does hafe fibers running perpendicularly on the opposing sides of each sheet.
The largest books were called folios: each pair of leaves was made form a single sheet of paper folded in half, then gathered into quires of anywhere between two and five folios each. Quarto books, on the other hand, were more regimented. Each gathering was made by folding a single sheet of paper in half and then in half again to produce four leaves - hence quarto - exactly half the size of those in a folio book. After quartos an octavos, where a quarto gathering was folded one more time to yield a quire of four individual sheets, eight leaves, or sixteen pages, in exactly the same manner as the traditional parchment quire.
For all its cozy familiarity from older times, early printers deliberately shied away from the octavo book. Gutenberg printed his 42-line Bible in a lavish folio format to mimic the grandest handwritten texts then available.
Fully half of all books printed before 1500 were quartos, and more than half of the rest were folios. The first printed books, like the first automobiles, were luxury items.
Aldus’s octavo Virgil ushered in the era of portable books - an era that continues today.
When it comes to determining the size of a book, the size of ht paper from which it is made is paramount.
It is system that appeals to math professors, visual designers, and office managers alike (a sheet of A-series paper can be magnified or reduced on a photocopier to fit any other A-series sheet with no waste); it informs the size of books, passports, and even toilet paper; and it rules from Austria to New Zealand.
Whereas empire-obsessed European papermakers had given their paper sizes imposing titles such as “crown” and “imperial,” their American counterparts called their uncut sheets “bible,” “book,” “offset,” or “text” according to the uses for which they were destined.
In the early days of printing however, before epilogues and appendices and bibliographies and indices, the last thing a reader saw was the “colophon,” a single page at the back of the book named after the Greek word for “summit,” or “finishing touch.”
by Michael Dirda
(New York: Pegasus, 2015)
If only I had flair for striking similes and metaphors! Alas, nothing ever reminds me of anything else.
Beauty, I learned, grows out of nouns and verbs, and personal style derives from close attention to diction and sentence rhythm.
A writer’s greatest challenge … though, is tone. I like a piece to sound as if it were dashed off in 15 minutes - even when hour might have been spent in contriving just the right degree of airiness and nonchalance.
Why is it that I so seldom want to read what everyone else wants to read?
I fear that my decreasing interest in the contemporary indicates the onset of old age, or even old fogeyism.
Fiction is a house with many stately mansions, but also one in which it is wise, at least sometimes, to swing from the chandeliers.
Poets traditionally own cats.
While Beatrix Potter’s little albums are all about animals - especially naughty ones, like Peter Rabbit and Squirrel Nutkin - her woodland characters aren’t really pets. They’re children in disguise.
We don’t’ read for high-minded reasons. We read for aesthetic, emotional, and intellectual excitement.
Writers ... often grow obsessive about their tools.
Many people simply read fiction for pleasure and nonfiction for information. I often do myself. But I also think of some books as my friends and I like to have them around. They brighten my life.
As book collectors know all too well, we only regret our economies, never our extravagances.
Words are both symbols for things and very real things themselves.
Nothing in our lives is pure and unalloyed; we love and we hate simultaneously, we act well and badly from one moment to the next. Our very souls are pieced together like old quilts or rag rugs.
Anyone who writes a lot eventually develops, then starts to overuse, certain “fallback” words.
Assigning grades is the worst part of being a teacher. Do you judge by performance and accomplishment alone? How important is effort of improvement? Should once err on the side of kindness - more grade inflation! - or insist on a return to standards, whatever those are?
All of us remember the favorite books of our childhoods. That’s when stories affect us most, giving us a glimpse of the world beyond our bedroom walls or presenting various options for the kid of life we might aspire to.
We should … be vigilant in over-mythologizing reading at the expense of later, more grown-up books.
In effect, anthologies resemble dating. You enjoy some swell times and suffer through some awful ones, until one happy hour you encounter a story you really, really like and decide to settle down for a while with its author.
Sigh. I myself sometimes wish that I could be as sure of anything as many writers seem to be about everything.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say that my library - a mere agglomeration of pulp, glue, and ink - means more to me than living, breathing human beings, it’s a near thing.
Most stories about high temperatures lead to violence.
I loved my father but, like sons everywhere, I never listened to him.
Even though I possess the modern hardback, I always prefer to read books in their original editions whenever possible. Only those early formats possess the right feel, the right aura.
I’m no investor: I only collect books and authors I care about When … I finally left Wonder Book and Video my wallet was certainly lighter than when I arrived, but then so was my heart.
There is no better conversation in the world than talking about books with longtime dealers and collectors.
As readers grow older, their tastes often become more rarefied more refined, more recherché.
The old ways may not always be best, but they still work for me.
One thing never does change: the books you really covet always cost more than you want to pay for them. But to borrow a phrase that women use of childbirth, the pain quickly vanishes when you finally hold that longed-for baby, or book, and know that it is yours forever.
With any justice, Heaven itself will resemble a vast used bookstore, with a really good café in one corner, serving coffee and Guinness and kielbasa to keep up one’s strength while growing and all around will be the kind of angels usually found in Victoria’s Secret catalogs.
Books don’t only furnish a room, they also make the best holiday gifts. Not that I said “books.” Kindles and Nooks and iPads may offer texts but word-pixels on a screen aren’t books.
Good books for even the youngest kids are still enjoyable by the most mature grown-up.
The goal of a just society should be to provide satisfying work, with a living wage to all its citizens. The jobs that are vitally important, truly dangerous or stressful, or inherently unattractive, should be the best compensated: teachers, coal-miners, emergency-room nurses, physicians and Pas, hospice workers, and, yes, trash collectors should all be extremely well paid. But work that deals mainly with intangibles, with the manipulation of words or numbers, should largely be its own reward. Corporate executives, who love to wheel and deal, ought to earn no more than poets, who love to play with language.
Books possess a shape and permanence that scattered pieces - disjecta membra - don’t.
But the prospect of spending years researching and writing about someone else’s life offends my vanity. I don’t want to submerge myself in another man or woman’s existence, I want to write about me, about the books and writers that I like.
I surreptitiously smuggled my new acquisitions into the house.
Writing that isn’t fun to read usually doesn’t get read.
The world of books is bigger than the current best-seller list.
Keep trying books outside your comfort zone. At least from time to time. True readers boldly go where they haven’t gone before.
Books don’t furnish a room. A personal library is a reflection of who you are and who you want to be, of what you value and what you desire, of how much you know and how much more you’d like to know.
Digital texts are all well and good, but books on shelves are a presence in your life. As such, they become a part of your day-to-day existence, reminding you, chastising you, calling to you. Plus, book collecting is, hands down, the greatest pastime in the world.
None of us, of course, will ever read all the books we’d like, but we can still make a stab at it.
by Otto Rank
Translated from the German by Mabel E. Moxon
(Alfred A. Knopf, 1932)
(Agathorn Press, 1968)
Happiness and success seldom go hand in hand and mostly they arrive when unsought for.
The individual has at least two characters, the one formed and shaped by the mother, whereas the other is the self-created character formed from it.
Education has no power over this early influence of the mother, yet the mother’s influence is necessarily the first instrument of education.
Education cannot alter the impulse-disposition, but can only influence its development or inhibition, and this in two ways thought What and the How offered to the child, that is, through the content and also dynamically, through the emotional force with which the content is presented.
Up to puberty the child belongs to the mother and mixes with the women, then follows an “education” compressed into a relatively short period of time to adulthood.
The actual ideology of education emanates from the community with the expressed purpose of making the child a valuable member of society.
In case of difficulties it was assumed that the child and not the education was to blame and therefore force was used, from which developed the educational concept of punishment.
Only when Rousseau’s educational idea of the equality and equal inheritance of all men had been forcibly materialized in the French citizenship, only then did modern pedagogy emerge with the aim of creating citizens who would be placed on an equal footing one with another.
Rousseau created the ideal of equality from his own personal experiences and suffering.
Rousseau’s idea that all men are equally free-born gave modern pedagogy the scientific presupposition implicit in every system of education; namely, that also the psychical aptitude of all men is the same and hence any individual can be made a representative of any ideology that the community likes.
Rousseau, presumably from personal motives, was not able to see that every human being is also equally unfree, that is, we are born in need of authority and we even create out of freedom, a prison.
In going back to the training of the instincts, Psychoanalysis at the same time questions the content and methods of the prevailing educational indeology.
Genius and insanity dwell side by side, at least, extreme talent and neurosis seem to be inseparably bound together although they appear in the most varied and mixed relationship.
We must ask ourselves the question if in the prevention of neurosis there may not also be a danger of preventing genius, perhaps even the proximate danger of preventing the development of men.
If we could prevent neurosis in the adult by correct education in childhood, the next question would be, of what does a right education of the child consist?
Is there not a possibility that the claim to produce high quality, a claim present in every system of education, might also be the cause for a relatively high percentage of failure?
Real education, in the sense of the prevailing ideal of type, is a community affair and as such it is far less problematical in primitive groups as well as in rigid state organizations, than in middle-class democracies where everyone carries a marshal`s staff in his satchel.
Rousseau’s idea, that appears in practice grotesque, of an individual teacher for every single pupil, has been materialized by the naughty child who obstinately keeps his individuality.
Love respects, protects, and wants individuality; the state on the other hand wants none of it, and hence it must necessarily have a system (or several systems)of compulsory education.
The education and development of individualities is like a game of chance, uncontrollable through the cooperation of disposition and milieu (education) as is the occasional departure into neurosis, and the State risks deviation from the norm above as below, in the educational endeavour to attain as many as possible average values..
The suppression of individuality by a strong community ideal may also lead to the formation of neurosis.
The formation of individualities can never be the program of education, the very nature and system of which is to form types.
For the development and unfolding of individuality, we need love.
The fundamental new content of psychological education is sexuality.
At a given period in individual development the role of educator is transferred from one person (mother) to the community; more precisely expressed, that in place of a human being as a pattern of education, a collective ideology appears as the educational ideal.
There is no doubt that the intellectual part in education has continually increased in the course of time, yet it is also evident that there can be no effective education at all without strong emotional influences.
By increasingly intellectualizing education and making it more technical, new and stronger emotional forces had to be mobilized for its achievement, and also to give it balance.
Psychoanalysis shifts the beginning of sexual education from puberty to childhood and makes the incision between family and community approximately there where it had already been made by the state (compulsory education). Secondly, Psychoanalysis raises this sexual education from the purely emotional sphere to the intellectual level of our community ideology, n that it proclaims sexuality … note only a means of education, but - in the form of sexual enlightenment - also the subject of education.
We may perhaps have to be resigned to an earlier maturing of our children since they have to achieve a greater development to reach our present-day level of civilization.
The concept of maturity corresponds to a natural process of development which, when artificially produced or influenced, would be out of place in any kind of educational ideology.
The whole movement of sexual enlightenment is doubtless praiseworthy in its tendency to consider sexuality as something harmless and not as something sinful and forbidden, an attitude which can only poison the entire later life of the individual. But this inoffensiveness tacitly comprises the release of sexual activity, for it cannot be comprehended - especially by the child - why one should not do something when it is not “bad.”
What is apparently manifest in the conflict between school and church is that sex education is on the point of replacing the religious training, and it is now also psychologically evident that the religious education has been a legitimate precursor of the psychological education and not merely a hindrance to it. This is clearly shown in the different answers given to the famous question of the child as to where we come from; the religious training answers it by pointing to God as the creator f mankind, modern education answers it by giving a biological explanation.
The sexual instruction of children, that is, putting them on an equality with adults in this matter, does not help much if the parents’ valuation of the sexual problem excludes their religious belief, or in other words, if the parental knowledge of sexual matters has the appearance of being a knowledge of all the mysteries of life, a knowledge which the child does not and never will possess even as the adults do not possess it.
The child like primitive man tends more to the unreal, he does not want logical, causal explanations, but emotional consolation and he denies reality in favour of consoling illusions which therefore seem to him to be “truer.”
Whatever one’s attitude to sex is, it cannot be denied that a great part of its attraction arises from curiosity, from its being kept secret and forbidden.
Sexual education signifies a radical attack on the fundamentals of al pedagogy and this, not prudery, explains the resistance against it.
The idea of sexual education gives the appearance of emancipating the individual and his impulse life from the chains of a religious and conventional morality; whereas its practical application in educational reforms is in fact not at all radical but conservative because it is not individual but collective. In that sexuality is first consciously and then officially made the subject of education, the idea of sexual enlightenment loses its individual-revolutionary character and necessarily becomes - like every educational ideology - a representative of the collective community will.
Sexuality is a collective phenomenon which the individual at all stages of civilization wants to individualize, that is, control.
We see the community at all times and under all circumstances endeavouring to deprive the individual as far as possible thr9ugh convention, law, and custom, of the arbitrary practice of sexuality.
The sexual problem which contains in it the two irreconcilable antitheses of individual and species.
One cannot correctly estimate the value of sexuality.
The modern sexual education which seems to be so individualistic is really aspiring to exploit this collective character of sexuality in order to combat increasing individualization of it Sex teaching as a subject of education with the admitted purpose of introducing sexual enlightenment into the curriculum of the schools would thus prove to be a grave interference with the individual’s personal freedom.
I believe that the individual’s stronger inclination for sexual freedom manifested in the increase of divorce, promiscuity, and perversions, is nothing but an individual reaction against the threatening invasion of the uprising sexual socialization which is implied in the modern ideology of education
The individual’s struggle against het collective fore of sexuality is as old as humanity and is repeated in every child in the well known sexual conflicts which can be avoided by no kind of education or explanation because they are inherent in the dualistic nature of the sexual impulse and of man himself as an ego and as part of the species. And the more parents and educators advocate from their collective attitude the sexual enlightenment of their children, the more (so experience has taught us) will the children themselves oppose this interference of society in their private lives.
All education is fundamentally a training of the will.
All education is, in effect, a matter of somehow moulding the individual (whose most natural self-expression is the will) into a social and collective being.
Broadly speaking the training of the will takes place in the home, and the education of the intellect for which this home-training lays the foundation, takes place in the school.
One might say that the parents are the natural educators of the child’s emotional life, and that the teacher is the educator ordained by the community for the systematic training of the child’s understanding and intelligence.
If we are to have a systematic and consciously directed education of the child’s impulses, we must first know and understand the child’s impulse life.
Psychoanalysis has postulated the sexual impulse as the nucleus of the infantile impulse life, and hence declares sexual education to be the chief task of pedagogy in early childhood.
All educational difficulties seem to be traceable to a will conflict between child and educator.
The emotions are the medium, through which another human being is able to influence us. That means that the essential factor in education if the emotional life.
Feeling reacts most of all to feeing, and is influenced by it.
As long as the child’s emotional expressions are felt by adults as disturbances (of their own emotional life) or in so far as they are provoked in the child only for the gratification of adults, there can be no free unfolding or development of emotion in the child.
The emotions cannot be educated, they can, however, be formed and influenced, but only by the model emotional life of the parents.
A free natural expression of emotion in the educator will also most easily stimulate such emotions in the child.
We cannot beget only god, beautiful, noble and moderate emotions in the child; if the child is to have a human emotional life, then it will always be capable also of the ugly, ignoble and immoderate affects, and even these will always be more valuable from a human standpoint, then complete suppression of the affect, which would then find some outlet in other, not always beautiful ways.
If parents and educators are themselves as much as possible in general, and also towards the child, then this will better enable the child to accept , develop, and express its own self as it sees the parents also doing.
The child very soon identifies the manifestations of impulse and the suppression of impulse with manifestations of the will and suppression of the will.
The suppression of feeling begins with the suppression of bad feelings, or such as are felt to be bad, and then encroaches upon the whole life of the emotions.
The education of the emotions is not education in the real sense of the word, as for example is the training of the impulses and the will, which consists mainly of guiding and forming given forces. The child brings into the world relatively strong impulses and develops them in the course of its natural growth; these fundamentally need only to be tamed and domesticated.
The child brings into the world a relatively rudimentary emotional life, which it cannot further develop alone, out of itself, but only in relation to the person near it.
The primitive impulse life itself, according to its very nature, tends to motor discharge, which results in the feeling of gratification.
Education will always remain training of the will, that is, restriction of the personal and individual in favour of the race with its unchanging collectivity and its changing ideals - irrespective of what community ideology is at the moment in power.
The prevailing ideology must influence education, the very nature of which consists of inculcating the individual with collective ideas and values.
It would then seem that religion, the educational means of primitive civilization, is almost an entirely collective ideology, whereas the essential educational means of our time, psychology, is a fundamentally individual ideology.
Religion … was not only the means of education but at the same time it supplied its most essential content.
Christianity for the first time materialized this hyper-collective character of the religious, in that it created a world religion which embraced many nationalities without demanding the renunciation of their characteristics. … A world religion such as Christianity, is, however, not permanently able to fulfil the national ideal of religion, as shown in the religious wars of the Middle Ages, as well as in the World War also, where those professing the same creed fought against each other for their national preservation.
The religious ideology … cannot be expanded beyond a certain limit, because then the abstraction becomes incomprehensible for individuals and hence insignificant. At this juncture, humanist springs up to replace the super-ideology of a world religion no longer equal to its task.
Sexual education is now … an attack of the community on the individual in the sense of utilizing the collective forces lying in sexuality, as against the individual forces.
The child for thousands of years has been the last refuge of the individually shattered belief in immortality.
The educator might believe in giving sexual freedom as he conceives it to the child, he does this in communizing sexuality, in making it a subject for enlightenment, and precisely in this way he makes it unfree. The adult needs a collective sexual ideology for the maintenance of the biological ego continuity, whereas the growing child rightly insists on an individualistic sexual ideology.
One might say only that the creative artist unites in his work both spheres, the individual and the collective, thereby producing something beyond the two which in its turn influences the formation of new collective ideologies in individuals.
The little we know about primitive forms of society indicates that in the original community the collective ideology had the leadership and not a single outstanding personality or a group of such personalities.
The leading group does not consist of the strongest - of which there may be only a few or actually only one - but of the oldest, most experienced, the wise in ideologies, who are teachers rather than leaders.
The earliest form of religion was no ideology of God but a soul-belief, that is, an ideology of immortality that touched the collectivity interest and not the individual who did not exist as such in primitive communities. Indeed the development of the individual himself proved to be a turning towards another kind of soul solace become necessary through the collapse of the collective ideology of immortality represented in the belief in the soul. … leadership became a possibility only with the development of the individual, and this is reflected religiously in the gradual change of the collective soul-belief into the belief in immortality with the characteristics of the personal god-concept.
The history of the leader thus psychologically begins with the creation of God, or more correctly, the emergence of the individualistic ideology of the leader is first reflected in and with the emergence and development of the idea of God.
Freud explained the concept of God as an exalted father image which he actually identified with the concept of leader-father.
It is first individuality, and later on, personality - as opposed to the community - which is personified in the idea of God, in the hero ideal and finally in the form of the leader.
All psychological, including psychoanalytic, biographies of creative personalities have made intelligible much in the individual as such, only not that which is specific to the personality.
One becomes a father by chance often as one becomes a leader, without having the corresponding father psychology which one either acquires or not. One becomes a leader also, first through the masses, as one becomes a father through the child; only the leader is in far greater degree the representative of the masses, of the collective whole and their ideology and this is precisely his very psychology though not individualistic.
God is the prototype of the leader crated by the group, an ideal prototype whose materialization in reality is determined through the individual psychology of the personality of the leader apart from the cultural and social influences of the time.
The concept of God has proved sociologically to be the symbol of the individual representing the masses, and psychologically the expression of the will representing this individuality.
We have found two characteristics that qualify the individual for the role of leader, although they do not necessarily lead to it. The first is a preponderance of the collective ideology, which seems, as it were, to be something beyond or above the individual; the second is a purely individual characteristic, namely, a strong will that is appropriate for the acceptance of the godlike role of leader.
The leader always personifies a strong will, just as God does, and in times when the [people are looking for a leader the common ideology is concentrated in the desire for a strong will which precisely the leader has and by means of which he is able to personify the requisite collective ideology prevailing at the time.
A strong individual will with a correspondingly strong individual ideology for which the personality alone is responsible, are characteristics that typify the artist. Finally a strong collective ideology that subjects the individual will to that of the community which carries the responsibility for it, as the characteristic that typifies the pedagogue or educator.
Although the educator creates in the name of the community, the artist autocratically in his own name.
The roles of helper and ruler that are united in the God-concept are divided in his earthly representatives among different individuals who are then crystallized into types and are differentiated into occupations.
Ethnologically, chief and priest, king and teacher, leader and therapeutist, belong together as complements; the first pair correspond to the collective stage of the belief in the soul, the second to the social stage of the sex age (the patriarchy), the third to the individual stage of the psychological ideology.
The Middle Ages and early Renaissance yet cling to the ideal of imitation, for even in it the creative force could manifest itself.
The manifest neurotic age in which we live today is only the consistent result of this thousands of years’ long development beginning with the religious concept of God, passing through stages where it gradually became humanized, concrete and democratic in early representatives, up to its absolute counterpart in the neurotic type.
The neurotic type who is also more or less aware of his inner deficiencies, is a living example of the disintegration of the genius and God concept which with the cessation of constructive collective ideology is reduced to the natural feeling of human insufficiency The neurotic is, so say, the first human type who lacks the support of an ideology of God of whatever kind, and is thrown entirely on his human qualities on which he tries to live and cannot.
Only by living in close union with a god-ideal that has been erected outside one’s own ego is one able to live at all.
A positive, constructive ideology must be brought into education from an austere collective tradition and cannot be developed as a result of education.
The energetic and creative individuals on earth have always lived in one way or another on this primal source of personified force of will, and only through participation in this collective will, have been capable and efficient.
Christianity, as the first religion of the individual, introduced the worship of the Son as God, whereas the preceding hero-age of the ancients persecuted the son, because the father resisted giving up his individual immortality.
Only in recent times can one speak of idolizing the child, since the child has become not only the centre of the family but also education is beginning to be focussed on the child.
The idolization of the child does not go much further back than to Christianity, in which we have to recognize the commencement of the individualization of the son.
The child came from God, now the child is God.
The child in the age of the belief in the Soul and in a still narrower sense in the patriarchal sex-age, was important as the one who continues our life, now he is the leader to a better life.
The paternal struggle for the child within the family seems to be projected into and magnified in the social strife for the pedagogic ideology of the future.
To deny that the parents have the capacity to bring up their children as most pedagogues do today, can only be understood either as a weapon used in the struggle for the child’s soul, or - in so far as it holds good - it must be considered a symptom of a degenerate type of human being whose natural instinct has been spoilt by psychological ideologies.
Every mother and every father is at the same time the naturally born educator of the children who is his or her turn moulds the child by example and trains him by instruction.
It might be remarked that originally the women (mother) represented the individual educational ideology and the men, the collective ideology.
Democracy in principle opens up all possibilities for anybody.
The individual has to vindicate his separate existence in the community through achievement, super-achievement, or special achievement, according to whether the individual is different from the other, feels himself to be so and accepts it or not.
The search for, and the cultivation of, a special talent in the child by parents and educators may be accepted by the child as a means to individualization but it may just as often be felt as an obstacle to the same, like anything imposed on the child from without.
In general the present-day occupations are too widely differentiated for the individual t determine beforehand his choice; on the other hand, they are again so specialized that one must begin in them early in order to master them. Hence, the ever increasing tendency of the schools, even the higher ones, to prepare for everything only in a general and more theoretic way.
The woman thus naturally fulfils two professions as well as wife and mother, namely, that of the educator (of her children) and that of the helper (therapeutist) of her husband.
The transition from the primate group-family (kinsfolk) to our present-day small family is characterized by the acceptance of the father’s individual role of begetter of his children; this role was formerly denied form religious reasons of the belief in immortality. This turn of development changed the child from a collective being into a personal representative of the patriarchal individual-ideology.
Today with the enfeeblement of the patrias potestas and the strengthening of the individualistic tendency, the child is n individual for himself although he is lawfully the father’s successor and is claimed as a collective being by the State. Thus the three chief stages in the ideological development of the child are: a collective being (mother), heir (of the father), private being (Self).
From the history of the family we know that earlier forms of kinship survive even when the actually existing family organization no longer shows this, indeed even when their origin is no longer understood.
The actual school education springs up from the original child-community not to replace “the family” but to preserve the old group community (clan) in process of disappearing.
Today the child is made not only a social but also an individual vindication of marriage, whereas formerly as long as he was a collective being, he made marriage unnecessary.
The child has always been used for something, at times by the community, at times by the parents, or one of the parents.
We today psychically misuse and exploit the children under the mask of individualistic education. Indeed, perhaps the acceptance of children as independent individuals, which completely contradicts the whole parental ideology, is a kind of guilt reaction on the part of the parents towards exploiting the child on the other hand.
In the strife between Christianity and ancient Rome, it has clearly become a conflict between two ideological principles, the patriarchal and the filial. This conflict continues through the whole of the Middle Ages in the strife between the worldly and the spiritual spheres (Emperor and Pope) apparently as a strife for authority, but in truth as a battle for the soul.
It would seem then, that the incest motive had originally served the purpose of an attempt to achieve one’s own immortality in the sense of the sexual ideology and indeed in the transitional period from the collective belief in the soul to belief in immortality in the children.
The incest desire is a symbol of individual immortality to which the ego clings in order to escape the compulsion of the racial immortality in sex.
The girl often leans to the father in order to withdraw from the mother’s influence, for whom she is only daughter, that is, a continuation of the ego.
Although the constructive kind of self-education is the ideal aim of pedagogy, yet one ought not to forget that the child is occupied first with the building up of his will-ego, which the artist can already place in the service of his self-control, and which the neurotic misuses for self-inhibition. On the other hand, the child cannot yet accept himself as can the normal average person, because he is in a process of continual development and still does not possess any formed or polished attitudes, much less a complete personality which he could accept or reject.
The most important question for the individual’s destiny, a problem in which alone education should be interested, is how the individual Self reacts to his inner needs.
In whatever way the educator may gain the child’s confidence and give him moral support yet the fundamental attitude in the “transference situation” always remains, namely to lead the child himself to recognize the motives for his actin or faulty action.
What we can learn from Psychoanalysis that is positive and constructive for education is to be found neither in the personal analysis of the educator nor in the analysis of the child, but simply by using the understanding gained from the analysis of the analytic situation as such.
From the analytic situation once can gain a deeper understanding of every educational, indeed of every human, relationship, if one rightly understands it and does not narrow it down simply to a “transference situation” in the Freudian sense.
If the parents could put their demands ot the child less personally and more generally, and if their educators and teachers could allow the personal element to appear by the side of the general in relation to the pupil, then not only the tension - which today exists between the school and the home - would be essentially reduced, but the whole pedagogic situation would be improved!
Just as the child eats because he is hungry and does not take his meals t please the parents, so he will instinctively grasp the collective ideologies offered him, because he needs them as props, for the infolding and justification of his individual ego.
We have arrived at the present-day therapeutic-ideology of education (the prevention of neuroses) from the neurotic type, which certainly is a product determined by present civilization.
The most general therapeutic idea of education derived from the psychological ideology of the neurotic can be summed up as follows: the general result should be that the individual is able to accept himself as such that is, as being different from others, in other words can affirm himself constructively.
Wher4eas the child’s psychology is built up on the impulse life and should aim rather at an acceptance of it, the adult life as a rule - the more so, the more successful he is socially - must be built up on the vocational life.
The real acceptance of one’s own Self, includes also the acceptance of one’s lacks, imperfections and limitations.
It has been falsely assumed that with the cessation of the educational condemnation of sex, the child will have no conflict with sexuality, but will accept it as something natural. But sexuality is not natural to the child, it might rather be conceived of as the individual’s natural enemy, against which he defends himself from the beginning and with his whole personality.
Marriage signifies a public admission of sexual dependence and of the moral completion brought about through the other.
The parents themselves are decisively influenced and changed by the child in their personality and in their relationship one to another. They themselves, as it were, experience with the growth of the child, a new orientation and a new education which in turn works itself out in the kind of education they give to their child.
All education is ultimately post festum approbation or reprimand or understanding of what has already happened and indeed of something that perhaps never appears a second time in the same way.
The Dante Club
by Matthew Pearl
(New York: Random House, 2004)
It was a matter of principle for the Harvard fellows that they knew nothing of the living languages.
Till America has learned to love literature not as an amusement, not as mere doggerel to memorize in a college room, but for its humanizing and ennobling energy … she will not have succeed in that high sense which alone makes a nation out of a people. That which raises it from a dead name to a living power.
Pity without rigor would be cowardly egotism, mere sentimentality.
The proof of poetry was … that it reduced to the essence of a single line the vague philosophy that floated in all men’s minds.
The very thought of entering a room full of students who thought it was possible to learn all about something made him yawn.
Why must mistakes only be made up for afterwards? Can’t they sometimes be mended by what came before?
I think we need no other hell than what we have just come out of.
We read Paradise Lost as a poem but Dante’s Comedy as a chronicle of our inner lives.
The poem’s great and lasting value is as the autobiography of a human soul
“We must work to understand our foreigners, Dr. Holmes. If we do not conform newcomers to our national character and bring them in willing subjection to our institutions, the multitudes of outside people will one day conform us.”
Do not ask what brings Dante to man but what b rings man to Dante - to personally enter his sphere, though it is forever severe and unforgiving.
Only the narrow could be truly brave.
Only through genius is genius truly known.
Nature will tell the truth all the better for its not being put to death.
Sin … was only the failure of an imperfectly made being to keep a perfect law.
Shakespeare bring sus to know ourselves. Dante, with his dissection of all others, bids us know one another.
Dante wrote to remove us from times when death was incomprehensible. He wrote to give us hope for life … when we have none left, to know that our lives, our prayers, make a difference to God.
Nothing that keeps thought out will ever be safe from thought!
Who will be kind to him if I am not?
When you are in love you hear townspeople praising the one you praise.
How roundly defective was the design of humankind.
Dante was the first poet who ever thought to make a poem wholly out of the fabric of himself.
Insanity is often the logic of an accurate mind overtasked.
It is the sin that defines their actions which determines their fate in Hell.
Writing is not survival of he fittest but survival of the survivors.
Part of what’s gripping as out violence in narrative is that it often harbors secrets.
There’s a remarkable power about reading together, reading collectively, that’s brought out by reading groups.
Why I Am Not A Christian
by Bertrand Russell
(London: George Allen and Unwin, 1957)
At present, when we are witnessing a campaign for the revival of religion which is carried on with all the slickness of modern advertising techniques, a restatement of the unbeliever’s case seems particularly desirable.
There has been amazingly little opposition to most of the encroachments of ecclesiastical interests.
There are unfortunately many others who would still persecute if they could and who do persecute when they can.
With very few exceptions, the religion which a man accepts is that of the community in which he lives, which makes it obvious that the influence of environment is what has led him to accept the religion in question.
The harm that is done by a religion is of two sorts, the one depending on the kind of belief which it is thought ought to be given to it, and the other upon the particular tenets believed.
The conviction that it is important to believe this or that, even if a free enquiry would not support the belief, is one which is common to almost all religions and which inspires all systems of State education.
A habit of basing convictions upon evidence, and of giving to them only that degree of certainty which the evidence warrants, would, if it became general, cure most of the ills from which the world is suffering.
Only those who slavishly worship success can think that effectiveness is admirable without regard to what is effected.
I think that you must have a certain amount of definite belief before you have a right to call yourself a Christian.
When I tell you why I am not a Christian I have to tell you two different things: first, why I do not believe in God and in immortality; and, secondly, why I do not think that Christ was the best and wisest of men, although I grant Him a very high degree of moral goodness.
There is no reason to suppose that the world had a beginning at all. The idea that things must have a beginning is really due to the poverty of our imagination.
We now find that a great many things we thought were natural laws are really human conventions.
The whole idea that natural laws imply a law-giver is due to a confusion between natural and human laws.
The arguments that are used for the existence of God change their character as time goes on. They were at first hard, intellectual arguments embodying certain quite definite fallacies. As we come to modern times they become less respectable intellectually and more and more affected by a kind of moralizing vagueness.
Since the time of Darwin we understand much better why living creatures are adapted to their environment. It is not that the environment was made to be suitable to then, but that they grew to be suitable to it, and that is the basis of adaptation. There is no evidence of design about it.
You see in the moon the sort of thing to which the earth is tending - something dead, cold, and lifeless.
If you are quite sure there is a difference between right and wrong, you are then in this situation: is that difference due to God’s fiat or is it not? If it is due to God’s fiat, then for God Himself there is no difference between right and wrong, and it is no longer a significant statement to say that God is good.
What really moves people to believe in God is not any intellectual argument at all. Most people believe in God because they have been taught form early infancy to do it, and that is the main reason.
Then I think that the next most powerful reason is the wish for safety, a sort of feeling that there is a big brother who will look after you. That plays a very profound part in influencing people’s desire for a belief in God.
There is one very serious defect to my mind in Christ’s moral character, and that is that He believed in hell. I do not myself feel that any person who is really profoundly humane can believe n everlasting punishment. Christ certainly as depicted in the Gospels did believe in everlasting punishment, and one does find repeatedly a vindictive fury against those people who would not listen to His preaching - an attitude which is not uncommon with preachers, but which does somewhat detract form superlative excellence.
I think all this doctrine, that hell-fire is a punishment for sin, is a doctrine of cruelty. It is a doctrine that put cruelty into the world and gave the world generations of cruel torture.
You find this curious fact, that the more intense has been the religion of any period and the more profound has been the dogmatic belief, the greater has been the cruelty and the worse has been the state of affairs.
Every moral progress that there has been in the world, has been consistently opposed by the organized Churches of the world. I say quite deliberately that the Christian religion, as organized in its Churches, has been and still is the principal enemy of moral progress in the world.
Churches compel one to mention facts that are not pleasant.
It has chosen to label as morality a certain narrow set of rules of conduct which have nothing to do with human happiness.
Religion is based, I think, primarily and mainly upon fear. It is partly the terror of the unknown, and partly, as I have said, the wish to feel that you have a kind of elder brother who will stand by you in all your troubles and disputes.
Fear is the parent of cruelty, and therefore it is not wonder if cruelty and religion have gone hand-in-hand.
The whole conception of God is a conception derived from the ancient Oriental despotisms.
A good world needs knowledge, kindliness, and courage; it does not need a regretful hankering after the past, or a fettering of the free intelligence by the words uttered long ago by ignorant men.
Religion is primarily a social phenomenon. Churches may owe their origin to teachers with strong individual convictions, but these teachers have seldom had much influence upon the Churches that they founded, whereas Churches have had enormous influence upon the communities in which they flourished.
The teaching of Christ, as it appears in the Gospels, has had extraordinarily little to do with the ethics of Christians. The most important thing about Christianity, from a social and historical point of view, is not Christ but the Church.
There is nothing accidental about this difference between a Church and its Founder. As soon as absolute truth is supposed to be contained in the sayings of a certain man, there is a body of experts to interpret his sayings, and these experts infallibly acquire power, since they hold the key to truth.
They become necessarily opponents of all intellectual and moral progress.
It is not only intellectually, but also morally, that religion is pernicious. I mean by this that it teaches ethical codes which are not conducive to human happiness.
The conception of Sin which is bound up with Christian ethics is one that does an extraordinary amount of harm, since it affords people on outlet for their sadism which they believe to be legitimate, and even noble.
I do not think there can be any defence for the view that knowledge is ever undesirable.
A person is much less likely to act wisely when he is ignorant than when he is instructed.
Almost every adult in a Christian community is more or less diseased nervously as a result of the taboo on sex knowledge when he or she was young.
The fundamental doctrines of Christianity demand a great deal of ethical perversion before they can be accepted.
If God knew in advance the sins of which man would be guilty, He was clearly responsible for all the consequences of those sins when he decided to create man.
The objections to religion are of two sorts - intellectual and moral. The intellectual objection is that the is no reason to suppose any religion true: the moral objection is that religious precepts date from a time when men were more cruel than they are, and therefore tend to perpetuate inhumanities which the moral conscience of the age would otherwise outgrow.
If we believe the Christian religion, our notions of what is good will be different from what they will be if we do not believe it. Therefore to Christians the effects of Christianity may seem good, while to unbelievers they may seem bad.
So far as scientific evidence goes, the universe has crawled by slow stages to a somewhat pitiful result on this earth, and is going to crawl by still ore pitiful stages to a condition of universal death. If this is to be taken as evidence of purpose, I can only say that the purpose is one that does not appeal to me.
The natural impulse if the vigorous person of decent character is to attempt to do good, but if he is deprived of all political power and of all opportunity to influence events he will be deflected from his natural course and will decide that the important thing is so be good. This is what happened to the early Christians: it led to a conception of personal holiness as something quite independent of beneficent action, since holiness had to be something that could be achieved by people who were impotent in action. Social virtue came therefore to be excluded from Christian ethics.
With this separation between the social and thee moral person there went an increasing separation between soul and body, which has survived in Christian metaphysics.
I think it is clear that the net result of all the centuries of Christianity has been to make men more egotistic, more shut up in themselves, than nature made them.
The intolerance that spread over the world with the advent of Christianity is one of its most curious features, due, I think, to the Jewish belief in righteousness and in the exclusive reality of the Jewish God.
It is no credit to the orthodox that they do not now believe all the absurdities that were believed 150 years ago. The gradual emasculation of the Christian doctrine has been effected in spite of the most vigorous resistance, and solely as the result of the onslaughts of Freethinkers.
If you abolish the reign of law, you also abolish the possibility or miracles, since miracles are acts of God which contr5avene the laws governing ordinary phenomena.
The modern doctrines as to minute phenomena have no bearing upon anything that is of practical importance.
Everybody who has ever had to do with children knows that a suitable diet does more to make them virtuous than the most eloquent preaching in the world.
Many children have bad habits which are perpetuated by punishment, but will probably pass away of themselves if left unnoticed.
The primary purpose of the State is clearly security against both internal criminals and external enemies. It is rooted in the tendency of children to huddle together when they are frightened, and to look for a grown-up person who will give them a sense of security. The Church has more complex origins. Undoubtedly the most important source of religion is fear: this can be seen at the present day, since anything that causes alarm is apt to turn people’s thoughts to God. … Religion has, however, other appeals besides that of terror; it appeals especially to our human self-esteem. If Christianity is true, mankind are not such pitiful worms as they seem to be; they are of interest to the Creator of the universe, who takes the trouble to be pleased with them when they behave well and displeased when they behave badly. This is a great compliment.
It is flattering to suppose that the universe is controlled by a Being who shares our tastes and prejudices.
The essence of the conception of righteousness, therefore, is to afford an outlet for sadism by cloaking cruelty as justice.
The three human impulses embodied in religion are fear, conceit and hatred. The purpose of religion, one may say, is to give an air of respectability to these passions, provided they run in certain channels.
Man is a part of Nature, not something contrasted with Nature.
Mental phenomena seem to be bound up with material structure.
We also cannot suppose that an individual’s thinking survives bodily death, since that destroys the organization of the brain, and dissipates the energy which utilized the brain tracks.
The Christian God may exist: so may the Gods of Olympus, or of ancient Egypt, or of Babylon. But no one of these hypotheses is more probable than any other: they lie outside the region of even probable knowledge, and therefore there is no reason to consider any of them.
It is rational to suppose that mental life ceases when bodily life eases.
Survival of bodily death is … a different matter from immortality: it may only mean a postponement of psychical death.
Mind and matter alike are for certain purposes convenient terms, but are not ultimate realities.
Whoever considers conception, gestation, and infancy cannot seriously believe that the soul is an indivisible something, perfect and complete throughout this process. It is evident that it grows like the body, and that it derives both form the spermatozoon and from the ovum, so that it cannot be indivisible.
If we were not afraid of death, I do not believe that the idea of immortality would ever have arisen.
It is fear of nature that gives rise to religion.
If the world is controlled by God, and God can be moved by prayer, we acquire a share in omnipotence.
Belief in God still serves to humanize the world of nature, and to make men feel that physical forces are really their allies.
I believe that when I die I shall rot, and nothing of my ego will survive.
Happiness is none the less true happiness because it must come to an end, nor do thought and love lose their value because they are not everlasting.
The great world, so far as we know it from the philosophy of nature, is neither good nor bad, and is not concerned to make us happy or unhappy. All such philosophies spring from self-importance and are best corrected by a little astronomy.
In the world of values, Nature in itself is neutral, neither good nor bad, deserving of neither admiration nor censure. It is we who create value and our desires which confer value. … It is for us to determine the good life, not for Nature - not even for Nature personified as God.
The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge.
Knowledge and love are both indefinitely extensible; therefore, however good a life may be, a better life can be imagined. Neither love without knowledge, nor knowledge without love can produce a good life.
Although both love a knowledge are necessary, love is in a sense more fundamental, since it will lead intelligent people to seek knowledge, in order to find out how to benefit those whom they love.4
Love at its fullest is an indissoluble combination of the two elements, delight and well-wishing.
Delight without well-being may be cruel; well-wishing without delight easily tends to become cold and a little superior.
I think that in all descriptions of the good life here on earth we must assume a certain basis of animal vitality and animal instinct; without this, life becomes tame and uninteresting. Civilization should be something added to this, not substituted for it.
Delight, in this actual world, is unavoidably selective, and prevents us from having the same feelings toward all mankind.
I do not believe that we can decide what sort of conduct is right or wrong except by reference to its probably consequences.
All moral rules must be tested by examining whether they tend to realize ends that we desire.
There is no conceivable way of making people do things they do not wish to do. What is possible is to alter their desires by a system of rewards and penalties.
The practical need or morals arises from the conflict of desires, whether of different people or of the same person at different times or even at one time.
To alter men’s characters and desires in such a way as to minimize occasions of conflict by making the success of one man’s desires as far as possible consistent with that of another’s. That I why love is better than hate, because it brings harmony instead of conflict into the desires of the persons concerned.
Superstition is the origin of moral rules.
The defenders of traditional morality are seldom people with warm hearts.
A certain percentage of children have the habit of thinking; one of the aims of education is to cure them of this habit.
Clergymen, almost necessarily, fail in two ways as teachers of morals. They condemn acts which do not harm and they condone acts which do great harm.
Another bad effect of superstition on education is the absence of instruction about the facts of sex. The main physiological facts ought to be taught quite simply and naturally before puberty at a time when they are not exciting. At puberty, the elements of an unsuperstitious sexual morality ought to be taught. Boys and girls should be taught that nothing can justify sexual intercourse unless there is mutual inclination.
Boys and girls should be taught respect for each other’s liberty; they should be made to feel that nothing gives one human being rights over another, and that jealousy and possessiveness kill love.
In the absence of children, sexual relations are a purely private matter, which does not concern either the State or the neighbours.
The view that criminals are ‘wicked’ and ‘deserve’ punishment is not one which a rational morality can support.
The vindictive feeling called ‘moral indignation’ is merely a form of cruelty.
No doubt prison must be less pleasant than freedom; but the best way to secure this result is to make freedom more pleasant than it sometimes is at present.
We should treat the criminal as we treat a man suffering from plague. Each is a public danger, each must have his liberty curtailed until he has ceased to be a danger.
To live a good life in the fullest sense a man must have a good education, friends, love, children (if he desires them), a sufficient income to keep him from want and grave anxiety, good health, and work which is not uninteresting. All these things, in varying degrees, depend upon the community, and are helped or hindered by political events. The good life must be lived in a good society, and is not fully possible otherwise.
There is no short cut to the good life, whether individual or social. To build up the good life, we must build up intelligence, self-control and sympathy.
Men’s actions are harmful either from ignorance or from gad desires. ‘Bad’ desires, when we are speaking from a social point of view, may be defined as those which tend to thwart the desires of others, or more exactly, those which thwart more desires than they assist.
It is in moments of panic that cruelty becomes most widespread and most atrocious.
Everything that increases the general security is likely to diminish cruelty.
Only justice can give security; and by ‘justice’ I mean the recognition of the equal claims of all human beings.
To force upon man, woman or child a life which thwarts their strongest impulses is both cruel and dangerous.
Artificialities which gratify the desires of ordinary human beings are good, other things being equal. But there is nothing to be said for ways of life which are artificial in the sense of being imposed by authority or economic necessity.
The amount and kind of work that most people have to do at present is a grave evil; especially bad is the life-long bondage to routine. Life should not be too closely regulated or too methodical; our impulses, when not positively destructive or injurious to others, ought if possible to have free play; there should be room for adventure.
A single desire is no better and no worse, considered in isolation, than any other; but a group of desires is better than another group if all of the first group can be satisfied simultaneously, while in the second group some are inconsistent with others. That is why love is better than hatred.
The continuity of a human body is a matter of appearance and behaviour, not of substance.
All that constitutes a person is a series of experiences connected by memory and by certain similarities of the sort we call habit.
The brain, as a structure, is dissolved at death, and memory therefore may be expected to be also dissolved.
It is not rational arguments, but emotions, that cause belief in a future life.
The universe may have a purpose, but nothing that we know suggest that, if so, this purpose has any similarity to ours.
The world in which we live can be understood as a result of muddle and accident; but if it is the outcome of deliberate purpose, the purpose must have been that of a fiend.
The future, emotionally speaking, is more important than the past, or even than the present.
Emotionally, our view of the universe as good or bad depends on the future, on what it will be.
It may be contended that, although we can neve wholly experience Reality as it really is, yet some experiences approach it more nearly than others, and such experiences, it may be said, are given by art and philosophy.
In one sense … all experience is experience of the Deity, but in another, since all experience equally is in time, and the Deity is timeless, no experience is experience of the Deity.
The Protestant conception of goodness is of something individual and isolated … The Catholic has quite a different conception of virtue: to him there is in all virtue an element of submission not only to the voice of God as revealed in conscience, but also to the authority of the Church as the repository of Revelation. This gives to the Catholic a conception of virtue far more social than that of the Protestant, and makes the wrench much greater when he serer his connexion with the Church.
Moderns do not always realize to what extent the Renaissance was an anti-intellectual movement. In the Middle Ages it was the custom to prove things; the Renaissance invented the habit of observing them.
The Catholic free-thinker … tends to eschew solemnity both moral and intellectual, whereas the Protestant free-thinker is very prone to both.
Jews and Protestants are mentally indistinguishable.
One may say, broadly speaking, that Protestants like to be good and have invented theology in order to keep themselves so, whereas Catholics like to be bad and have invented theology in order to keep their neighbours good. Hence the social character of Catholicism and the individual character of Protestantism.
Perhaps if Americans could be made to believe that marriage is sin they would no longer feel the need for divorce.
The French Revolution produced the romantic admiration of absurdity, based upon the experience that reason led to the guillotine.
If we wish to see a period truly, we must not see it contrasted with our own, whether to its advantage or disadvantage; we must try to see it as it was to those who lived in it.
In every epoch, most people are ordinary people, concerned with their daily bread rather than with the great themes of which historians treat.
In England, as in America, the foreigner is a morally degrading influence, and we all owe a debt of gratitude to the police for the care which they take to see that only exceptionally virtuous foreigners are allowed to reside among us.
It is much commoner for a woman to be nice than for a man.
To be a nice person it is necessary to be protected from crude contact with reality, and those who do the protecting cannot be expected to share the niceness that they preserve.
In general, nice people leave the policing of the world to hirelings because they feel the work to be not such as a person who is quite nice would wish to undertake. There is, however, one department which they do not delegate, namely the department of back-biting and scandal.
The chief characteristic of nice people is the laudable practice of improvement upon reality. God made the world, but nice people feel that they could have done the job better.
Whoever invented the phrase ‘the naked truth’ had perceived an important connection. Nakedness is shocking to all right-minded people, and so is truth.
England has brought to perfection the almost invisible and half-unconscious control of everything unpleasant by means of feelings of decency.
The immovable moral convictions of nice people become linked with the defence of property.
Nice people very properly suspect pleasure wherever they see it. They know that he that increaseth wisdom increaseth sorrow, and they infer that he that increaseth sorrow increaseth wisdom. They therefore feel that in spreading sorrow they are spreading wisdom; since wisdom is more precious than rubies, they are justified in feeling that they are conferring a benefit in so doing.
The day of nice people, I fear, is nearly over; two things are killing it. The first is the belief that there is no harm in being happy, provided no one else is the worse for it; the second is the dislike of humbug, a dislike which is quite as much aesthetic as moral.
The essence of nice people is that they hate life as manifested in tendencies to co-operation, in the boisterousness of children, and above ll in sex, with the thought of which they are obsessed. In a word, nice people are those who have nasty minds.
New knowledge is the cause of the economic and psychological changes which make our age at once difficult and interesting.
In our struggles with physical nature we no longer have need of God to help us against Satan.
It is no longer Satan who makes sin, but bad glands and unwise conditioning.
Sin is what is disliked by those who control education.
New knowledge of our times has been thrust so rudely into the mechanism of traditional behaviour that the old patterns cannot survive, and new ones for good or evil have become imperative.
The smallness of the modern family has given parents a new sense of the value of the child. … Modern scientific care of children is intimately bound up with the smallness of the modern family.
Most enlightened people live in an unreal world, associating with their friends and imagining that only a few freaks are unenlightened nowadays.
There is nothing bad in sex, and the conventional attitude in this matter is morbid.
Our society is becoming so closely knit that reform in any one direction is bound up with reform in every other and no question can be adequately treated in isolation.
The question whether a code is good or bad is the same as the question whether or not it promotes human happiness.
Jealousy, I believe, has been the most potent single factor in the genesis of sexual morality. Jealousy instinctively rouses anger; and anger, rationalized, becomes moral disapproval.
What we do has its origin in our heredity, our education, and our environment, and that it is by control of these causes, rather than by denunciation that conduct injurious to society is to be prevented.
What we have to do positively is to ask ourselves what moral rules are most likely to promote human happiness.
Virtue which is based upon a false view of the facts is not real virtue.
Most moralists have been so obsessed by sex that they have laid much too little emphasis on other more socially useful kinds of ethically commendable conduct.
A democracy in which the majority exercises its powers without restraint may be almost as tyrannical as a dictatorship. Toleration of minorities is an essential part of wise democracy, but a part which is not always sufficiently remembered.
The fundamental difference between the liberal and the illiberal outlook is that the former regards all questions as open to discussion and all opinions as open to a greater or less measure of doubt, while the latter holds in advance that certain opinions are absolutely unquestionable, and that no argument against them must be allowed to be heard.
Opinions which we disagree with acquire a certain respectability by antiquity, but a new opinion which we do not share invariably strikes us as shocking.
No man can pass as educated who has heard only one side on questions as to which the public is divided.
The interlocking power of stupidity below and love or power above paralyses the efforts of rational men.
All serious intellectual progress depends upon a certain kind of independence of outside opinion, which cannot exist where the will of the majority is treated with that kind of religious respect which the orthodox give to the will of God.
I could only admit a necessary being if there were a being whose existence it is self-contradictory to deny.
I think a subject named can never be significantly said to exist but only a subject described. And that existence, in fact, quite definitely is not a predicate.
The whole concept of cause is one we derive from our observation of particular things: I see no reason whatsoever to suppose that the total has any cause whatsoever.
I’m not contending in a dogmatic way that there is not a God. What I’m contending is that we don’t know that there is. I can only take what is recorded as I should take other records.
The fact that a belief has a good moral effect upon a man is no evidence whatsoever in favour of its truth.
I feel that some things are good and that other things are bad. I love the things that are good, that I think are good, and I hate the things that I think are bad. I don’t say that these things are good because they participate in the Divine goodness.
I think right conduct is that which would probably produce the greatest possible balance in intrinsic value of all the acts possible in the circumstances, and you’ve got to take account of the probably effects of your action in considering what is right.
I don’t think there is anything absolute whatever. The moral law, for example, is always changing. At one period in the development of the human race, almost everybody thought cannibalism was a duty.
I do not myself think that the dependence o moral suppose religion is nearly as close as religious people believe it to be. I even think that some very important virtues are more likely to be found among those who reject religious dogmas than among those who accept them. I think this applies especially to the virtue of truthfulness or intellectual integrity. I mean by intellectual integrity the habit of deciding vexed questions in accordance with the evidence, o of leaving them undecided where the evidence is inconclusive.
Moral rules are broadly of two kinds: there are those which have no basis except in a religious creed; and there are those which have an obvious basis in social unity.
If a theology is thought necessary to virtue and if candid inquirers see no reason to think the theology true, the authorities will set to work to discourage candid inquiry. In former centuries, they did so by burning the inquirers at the stake.
As soon as it is held that any belief, no matter what, is important for some other reason than that it is true, a whole host of evils is ready to spring up.
I can respect the men who argue that religion is true and therefore ought to be believed, but I can only feel profound moral reprobation for those who say that religion ought to be believed because it is useful, and that to ask whether it is true is a waste of time.
The Communist, like the Christian, believes that his doctrine is essential to salvation, and it is this belief which makes salvation possible for him. It is the similarities between Christianity and Communism that makes them incompatible with each other.
Christianity, I will admit, does less hrm than it used to do; but that is because it is less fervently believed.
Christianity has been distinguished from other religions gby its greater readiness for persecution.
The whole contention that Christianity has had an elevating moral influence can only be maintained by wholesale ignoring or falsification of the historical evidence.
Those who aim at founding a Church ought to remember this. Every Church develops an instinct of self-preservation and minimizes those parts of the founder’s doctrine which do not minister to that end.
What the world needs is reasonableness, tolerance, and a realization of the interdependence of the parts of the human family.
I think the important virtues are kindness and intelligence. Intelligence is impeded by any creed, no matter what; and kindness is inhibited by the belief in sin and punishment.
I do not believe that a decay of dogmatic belief can do anything but good.
What the world needs is not dogma, but an attitude of scientific inquiry.
I do not believe that controversy is harmful on general grounds. It is not controversy and open differences that endanger democracy. On the contrary, these are its greatest safeguards. It is an essential part of democracy that substantial groups, even majorities, should extend toleration to dissentient groups, however small and hover uh their sentiments may be outraged.
In a democracy it is necessary that people should learn to endure having their sentiments enraged.
A Gentle Madness
by Nicholas A. Basbanes
(Owl Books, Henry Holt, New York, 1995)
This study is as much about the life cycle of books as it is about the impulse to collect them.
John Hill Burton identified a basic trait common to most collectors: “It is, as you will observe, the general ambition of the class to find value where there seems to be none, and this develops a certain skill and subtlety, enabling the operator, tin the midst of a heap of rubbish, to put his finger on those things which have in them the latent capacity to become valuable and curious.”
It is paradoxical, but true, that not a single great library in the world has been formed by a great scholar.
Preservation and the service of scholarship are happy products of collecting.
To a true collector the acquisition of an old book is a rebirth.
The closer people get to the source, the closer they feel the wonders of creativity.
To see and handle a first edition of Darwin’s Origin of Species or Newton’s Principia Mathematica is to touch ideas that changed the way people live.
The loyalty of collectors draws them to each other; they are a fraternity joined by bonds stronger than their vows, their bonds of shared vanity and the ridicule of non-collectors. Collectors appear to non-collectors as selfish, rapacious, and half-mad, which is what collectors frequently are, but they may also be enlightened, generous, and benefactors of society, which is the way they like to see themselves. Mad or sane, they salvage civilization.
Centuries before Sigmund Freud gave scope and substance to the study of the mysteries of the mind, people had been mad about books, yet it was not until 18-09 that a name for this curious malady came into widespread use. That year, the Reverend Thomas Frognall Dibdin (1776-1847) popularized the word bibliomania when he published a lighthearted “bibliographical romance” he titled The Bibliomania: or, Book-Madness; containing some account of the History, Symptoms, and Cure of This Fatal Disease.
Women too have collected throughout history.
Why, in five centuries, in six countries, do there seem to have been so few women book collectors? The answer is obvious: a serious collector on any scale must have there advantages: considerable resources, education, and freedom. Until recently, only a handful of women have had all three, but times are changing!
The therapeutic nature of books is a story heard often.
The reason books were tethered to shelves in medieval times was to make sure they stayed where they were. The most widely employed deterrent in the Middle Ages, however, was not the chain but the curse.
Throughout history books have been the source of great joy, great passion, and also great pain for their owners.
If they cannot be your friends, let them at any rate be your acquaintances. If they cannot enter the circle of your life, do not deny them at least a nod of recognition.
Ship of Fools also was the first printed book to incorporate contemporary events and living persons in its narrative.
The character Shakespeare chose to say farewell to the London stage on his behalf was a magician who draws his power from books. The Tempest is the first play to appear in the First Folio, not because it was the first written, nor because it was the last, but in all likelihood because it was widely acknowledged to be the great bard’s parting production.
Because writers are so involved in the creative process, most of them find book collecting a phenomenon too remote to understand.
If it is true that language is the miracle of our species, then it follows that writing is the witness.
From the time writing first appeared on clay tablets in Mesopotamia five thousand years ago, it has been the object of veneration.
As cultures developed, books became instruments of utility and enlightenment, not just guides to ritual and worship.
With the secularization of books came the craving to possess them, a passion that by classical times was fully developed.
For nine luminous centuries, from around 300 B.C. to the seventh century A.D., Alexandria was a place of inspiration, a vibrant shrine dedicated to the limitless potential of human achievement. Alexandria was by no means the first great book repository, but because it contained antiquity’s most extensive collection off recorded thought, it undoubtedly was the greatest.
The Roman proclivity for plundering the relics of conquered countries is legendary.
By the second century A.D., Rome was firmly established as headquarters of the publishing world. Books were in demand, and a plentiful labor force of slaves skilled in copying made producing them inexpensive. Because there were no printing presses, there were no setup costs or expensive corrections to make. Works came directly into the shops from authors and were handed over to the scribes, and copies were produced - often, according to the poet Martial, on the same day
In A.D. 529 the School of Athens was closed, effectively ending Greek domination of the continent’s cultural agenda. AT Monte Cassino near Naples, however, a learned monk named Benedict established a monastery that decreed strict procedures for the copying of ancient texts. Thus, a medieval institution essential to the preservation of knowledge, the monastic scriptorium, was functioning when Alexandria was captured by Saracen soldiers 111 years later.
With the fall of the Roman Empire and the flood of barbarian tries throughout Europe, ancient literature became an irrelevant pursuit. … But a lifeline was maintained nonetheless. Two sixth-century Roman scholars in particular, Boethius and Cassiodorus, provided the example by which so many classical writings escaped oblivion.
Boethius (ca. 480-524) was the last learned Roman to study the language and literature of Greece, and the first to interpret the logical treatises of Aristotle for later ages.
Cassiodorus … his most enduring contribution was to formalize procedures for the copying of manuscripts. The precepts Cassiodorus laid down were adopted by Benedict, founder of the monastery at Monte Cassino and the Benedictine order, which embraced reading as an essential discipline.
Petrarch has been called the first modern man. By seeking out the forgotten writings of ancient authors, he also gained fame as a great collector of monastic manuscripts.
Books can warm the heart with friendly words and counsel, entering into a close relationship with us which is articulate and alive.
I know of many who have attained the highest saintliness without literary culture; I don’t know of any who were excluded form sanctity by culture.
At first publishers saturated the bookstalls with new editions of Latin classics, resulting in a temporary glut that prompted the emerging industry to evaluate the dictates of the market.
Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam, the most famous European scholar of the period and the first person actually to make a living as a write.
Since the sixth century, libraries in Britain had been the exclusive concern of the Roman Catholic Church.
By the twelfth century, a lay book trade was in operation throughout much of the English realm, and a community of parchmenters, scribes, and illuminators flourished in Oxford.
Since Pepys sent his books out to be bound, his library is the finest collection of seventeenth-century English bindings in existence.
“Nothing tends to the preservation of anything so much as making it bear a high price.”
There was not even a press operating in the British colonies until 1639, when the locksmith Stephen Daye set up a shop in Cambridge and began work on The Whole Booke of Psalmes, a psalter commonly known as the Bay Psalm Book and prized today as the oldest surviving object printed in what is now the United States.
Collectors, in short, not only preserve knowledge, they disseminate it.
“Let us save what remains; not by vaults and locks, which fence them from the public eye and use in consigning them to the waste of time, but by such a multiplication of Copies as shall place them beyond the reach of accident.”
There is no sure way of preserving historical records and materials, but by multiplying the copies.
Jefferson’s classification scheme was patterned on Sir Francis Bacon’s concepts of the “three faculties needed to comprehend knowledge,” memory, reason, and imagination, from which he derived forty-four subject divisions. His system was maintained through the end of the nineteenth century.
By the nineteenth century collecting had begun to change in America. No longer were books just tools for scholars and historians. They had become valuable objects in their own right.
“Crazy people like to see others crazier than they are.”
As the nation expanded, the demand for books expanded with it.
Americans had been using their new wealth to buy up great English libraries and bring them to the United States.
While the phrase en bloc did not originate with Huntington, the practice of buying the complete libraries of other collectors became his trademark.
By buying entire collections, Huntington not only acquired a tremendous volume of material, but was able to secure with single purchases what others had spent years assembling.
“I never captured a prize, the prize always captured me.”
The American Golden Age of Book Collecting effectively end with the Crash of 1929.
The life spans of private collections usually can be measured by the life spans of the individuals who build them … Typically, final scores are tallied when the collectors die and catalogues are issued, or when their libraries are dispersed at auction or go off into institutions.
Heartbroken at the loss of his eyesight in old age, the poet, scholar, and scientist Eratosthenes of Alexandria starved himself to death rather than live any longer without the companionship of his books.
There is pain to collecting. There is pleasure to collecting.
Knowing where everything is located is what distinguishes the true collector form the hoarder.
No collection is ever complete.
It is a commonplace of collecting, rare of attainment now, that no form of life in libraries compares with the intimacy of owning.
“Imprints” is a word that essentially means anything that came off a printing press in a certain place within a specific period of time. Books are imprints - so are pamphlets, agricultural tracts, sermons, broadsides, and almanacs. The Bay Psalm Book is the most famous and most precious of all because it is the oldest surviving document produced in British North America.
Because of their ephemeral nature - and because they were not, for the most part, produced to endure as hallmarks of the craft - the importance of imprints was recognized only after many of them had disappeared.
“For whatever compelling reason I have to collet, it is not to possess. Possessing is irrelevant to me; it’s the action. Being a collector, accumulating, and having the fun, that’s what drives me; the pleasure that I always got was in the act of collecting.”
“Collecting is an educative process. You have to handle the goods. If you handle the goods objectively then after a while you learn to discriminate.”
“My collecting mentality is that I acquire anything. I do it without discrimination. As you accumulate, all of a sudden this material reaches a critical mass, and soon it becomes a collection. The junk is absolutely essential. Some of the rarest books in my collection had been lying in the des drawers of dealers’ shops for thirty or forty years. By taking everything in, you see the difference.”
What develops from handling the “goods” is a sense of connoisseurship, a clear sense of worth, not just value.
“I’m in the process of divesting all my collection …. That doesn’t mean I have lost my of my fanaticism, because dispersal is just one aspect of the process.”
“You have to be acquisitive to be a collector. But at some point along the line the acquisitiveness is the first thing that goes.”
“It is an obvious law of nature that collections of living men, however wise, constitute highly perishable collections of knowledge …. Enlightened human minds almost invariably outmode themselves by encouraging a continual search for new knowledge, new synthesis.
“Once we decided that we were willing to pay good money for it, it became valuable overnight. That was inevitable. It’s the nature of the marketplace.”
“What is junk anyway? Who makes those decisions? I believe that the only way to appreciate a masterpiece is to understand what created it. You can’t just look at the end product, the polished work. If you want to understand something properly, you have to see the things that led to its creation.
“Just because someone is unknown does not mean they should not be collected. … What is important is that the material has survived, and it is here to be studied.”
“Collecting … is an empty vanity unless it’s useful.”
“When you buy books, you buy some to read, some to own, and some for reference. You want to possess the books, you want to own them, you want to hold them. Perhaps you even hope that you will read them.”
“To my mind, the goal of a good antiquarian dealer is to provide the right books to the right clients.”
If books are beautiful objects to behold - and so many of them are exquisite - it is only incidental to their purpose, which is to instruct, inform, inspire, and entertain.
“I was a collector before I ever knew I was a collector.”
You don’t collect if you’re not competitive.
“When there are lots of books around me, I feel safe, I feel secure, I feel in the company of others even though I may be sitting in my study all alone.”
“You have to be obsessive, I think, or it just doesn’t work.”
“To use books and manuscripts is to justify the process of collecting and preserving them.”
“People who collect books have a certain intellectual curiosity … about books, period, and what books represent to them. The transition between collecting books as objects and colleting books for information is to differentiate … between work and play.”
“I also saw the books as a form of security in that they were a form of knowledge, or a form of art, to be enjoyed.”
“You can never really know how much a cache of books is worth unless you actually put it up for sale and see what it would go for.”
Patterns require repetition to take shape.
Rare Books Uncovered
by Rebecca Rego Barry
(Minneapolis: Voyageur, 2015)
Rarity or significance does not as a rule come from the rag content of the material object … or by the cut and number of carats gleaming on its face, but by value that is determined subjectively through context and scarcity.
If ever there was an impulse to collect that appeals directly to the intellect, it is the urge to acquire and possess books and their various cousins, manuscripts, printed ephemera, prints, and the like.
One of the many beauties of book collecting is that it is an activity that can be enjoyed, and mastered, at any level.
Such is the way with book scouts. They go about their jobs discreetly, and the only way to get ahold of them is to know someone who knows them.
“I look … . That is the great pleasure.”
Incunabula is Latin for “in the cradle,” and it generally refers to books printed before 1501. Any book from this era would be considered an incredible find.
Private press also sometimes called fine press, refers to a type of publisher that prints only books of her or his own choosing, often with an eye toward artistic rather than financial goals. The books typically have high production values, are limited to a certain number of editions, and are sometimes sold by subscription.
Ever since he was a child, Bishop felt a zeal for collecting. At the time it was rocks, fossils, insects, and coins. “I think it instills in you the sense of trying to find things and focusing and what it means to have things adhere to one another by virtue of the fact they they’ve got their own shelf.”
For some people, the desire to collect seems to be innate from a very early age, they procure, organize, and fetishize objects, form fossils to fine art. Others, however, are simply yapped at just the right moment or by the right person.
People who care about books serve as stewards for these things.
If they’re of value to somebody, they deserve to be preserved.
It’s a pleasure to find things by surprise and stumble upon books I didn’t even know existed.
Knowledge - whether wisdom gained through years of reading or the intelligence to check the right reference sources - is a necessity in the successful buying and selling of rare books.
“The single most interesting part about selling is learning what is collectible, and how little relationship there is between value and, say, prestige.”
For better or for worse, serendipity plays a significant role in antiquarian book collecting and bookselling.
The best book-collecting advice is to collect what you love and become the expert in that sphere.
In terms of financial value, family bibles are the bane of antiquarian booksellers everywhere.
As a book dealer, you’re often buying things which people have seen before.
Scholars tell us that Shakespeare and his contemporaries would have used secretary hand, a loopy style accomplished with strong up and down strokes of the pen, although there is so little evidence where Shakespeare is concerned that’s it (sic) tough to pin down what his penmanship was like.
People fail to realize how many old books have survived and how many discoveries are still possible.
By definition, a miniature book should be no larger than three inches in height, width, or thickness.
He likened the best booksellers to “foster parents.”
Antiquarian bookselling was - and still is - based on the notion of apprenticeship.
Like many people with collecting mania, he said, he has books he would never sell, books he’s trying to sell, and then a gray area where items might be traded or sold for the right price.
A blurred boundary exists between books and art. … Those who are drawn to drawing, photography, and prints typically have a crossover interest in books, and vice versa.
Money comes and goes, it is just a means to something else and is temporary …. But books last forever.
Throughout history, the most vicious destroyers of great libraries have been fire and warfare, or a combination thereof.
Books can be portable, they can be personal objects.
One of the unspoken doctrines of the rare book business is that once a copy of a certain scarce or truly rare item materialized, it often prompts a second or third such find.
A successful book scout accumulates many small wins over years and decades but probably only a few major triumphs.
In the book world migration is healthy: old pages await new eyes.
In real estate they say, “Location, location, location.” In book collecting the mantra is “Condition, condition, condition.” Which is to say, no matter what you find, the condition of the binding, the paper, and the dust jacket (when issued with one) are of supreme importance if financial gain is the goal.
It’s important to note that not all readers are collectors, and not all collectors are readers (blasphemy!)
Those who love to read are apt to desire a closer relationship to the author or to the text, which often drives a need for a copy of the book in its original form.
Most anyone in the business will tell you to collect what appeals to you personally: a specific subject, author, illustrator, publisher, binder - you name it.
The most obvious way to join the ranks is to visit secondhand (sic) bookshops and tell the proprietor what you’re collecting.
I am a permanent foreign resident living in Japan. I have no plan. I don't know what I'm doing.
12 月 2016