The making of a woman Part II

Medieval girdle books were used to make religious texts more portable, sewn into leather and either carried or attached to a girdle belt.  The making of my book bag represented the remarkable journeys that Margery Kempe took in her lifetime to places such as Danske, Jerusalem, Rome and Santiago de Compostela.

I used real buck skin to cover my book and purchased plywood, which, I cut to size from the measurements of all six books when they were brought together in a pile.

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The hide was trimmed to a more manageable size and holes were made around the plywood board to match holes that were also made to the hide.  These were then brought together and sewn using small strips of hide and tied off when finished.

IMG_1048The hide was cut to cover the book, leaving a margin to fold over the plywood and attach with thing strips of hide.  An extra piece was included to give the text added security from the elements such as rain.  This extra piece was meant to be folded over the complete book and secured using leather knots and loops which I measured and secured to the book spine.
I realized that I set my book to open from the left hand side and not the right, which would probably have been the norm but I am left handed and did this without thinking.  The text was secured with a long piece of leather attached to the stitching and tied to make the books more likely to stay in place.

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The face of the woman was placed in the book bag so that it is the first thing you see when you open it.  This is to symbolize the fact that the text that follows is a person, tangible and real from the outset.  It is important to note that the text faces towards the reader in the book bag for better readability when walking your pilgrimage.  Its purpose was to hang on one’s girdle to be lifted easily when required.

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The knot was the most difficult piece of the project to construct.  I researched turk’s head knots and monkey fist knots, neither of which are particularly easy to make with leather.  This did however, after many failed attempts, come together to make the finished project as can be seen below.

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My objective for this book project was to reflect the nature of the medieval book and its uses, whilst also representing the person of Margery Kempe, a remarkable medieval woman whom I have come to respect and love.  I have acknowledged the presence of this text as code and allowed it’s aesthetics to infiltrate my book making process where appropriate.  It is true that words hold different meanings for different readers and the pen speaks louder sometimes than the printed word.  This is why I used hand written text to represent the Labyrinth as well as including a recent printed edition for the booklets also.  Real, breathing life went into ‘The Book of Margery Kempe‘ and I hope I have kept it alive with my representation of this wonderful medieval text.

 

The making of a woman.

The Book of Margery Kempe‘ is a medieval manuscript that survives in hand copied form, and has been digitized by the British Library for public viewing online.  The material book is, however, locked away in the vaults of the library for only the selected few to hold in their hands.  Whether you read it as the dictation of an actual medieval woman to a scribe or, as Lynn Staley suggests, the dissenting fiction of an author named Kempe, the resilience and tenacity of Margery, the person or protagonist, cannot be denied.

I used this remarkable woman as the basis for my project because her text engages with my understanding of the book in a variety of forms.  Compiled in the 15th Century, it deals with some of the preoccupations of book culture, such as, authorship (as it was written by a scribe, on vellum and bound in traditional leather binding), the commentary tradition (as it was annotated by a number of additional scribes, most likely clergy) and it reflects the religious culture of medieval pilgrimage, whereby, the travelling book bag would have been an essential piece of kit for the discerning pilgrim.  In it’s pages a recipe for dragges has been discovered, the elements of which point towards the Grimoire and other forms of ‘low magic’ and finally, every fleck of dirt that has gathered on the pages of the manuscript can be observed in high definition, thanks to the digital revolution.

The narrative offers an interesting insight into medieval life, especially that of the medieval woman and at a time when religious fervor was at it’s height.  Margery was prone to weeping and sought to express her Affective Piety with vigor and authority, much to the distaste of those she came into contact with.  She was tried for heresy and used her patronage as ‘the daughter of the Mayor of Lynn’ to great affect on numerous occasions.

As I have mentioned previously with regards to the recording of her manuscript, the account is thought to have been dictated and is confusing in parts, much of which is written out of chronological order.  This sense of dis-organisation is reflected symbolically in my project, with the dis-organised layout of the six booklets that I compiled.IMG_1049

The inside coverings and occasional misprint of text explore the haphazard nature of the original manuscript and the copious smudges of black ink serve to display the  temperamental nature of the printing process.

Margery’s voice has always been disputed by scholars.  She was not the direct ‘writer’ of the book but the dictator and, therefore, subject to scribal interpretation.  When I considered this, my immediate response was that Margery’s voice could be heard in the text alone, in the remarkable events that her scribe was recalling and in the manner in which the story is relayed.  I took the topography of a woman’s face and wrote the opening narrative from ‘The Book of Margery Kempe to symbolize the strength of words alone in representing the authenticity of voice within a text.img129

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This was then placed in the centre circle of a larger piece of work which traces the pattern of Chartres Cathedral in France, a pilgrimage walk which people still do every Friday to this day.  It was the significance of the the Cathedral design that led me to construct my own version of this pilgrimage walk using the text from Margery’s first pilgrimages in England to mark the lines where the path leads.

 

8-3_-_labyrinth_-_chartres-490x559This pilgrimage map wraps the six booklets which were constructed in numerical order, and represent the various places in Europe Margery visited during her life.  Inside these booklets the narrative is interrupted by markings on the pages i.e. tear stains where she wept profusely, burn holes where she was tried for heresy and threatened with burning at the stake etc.

Each booklet is bound using the coptic sewing method and held together with two small strips of cloth which have been gluedIMG_1042 to the cardboard and covered over with random prints of pages disregarded in earlier preparations of the project.  The outer coverings are covered in a printed copy of the digital code which makes up the cover page of the online version of the manuscript.  These sheets have been ripped up and placed in a random fashion by way of symbolizing how the beauty of code can merge with the beauty of the text with seamless authority.

I copied the pages that related to Margery’s pilgrimages and grouped them into six distinct events.  The six groupings reflect the six petals of the inner circle in ChartIMG_1043res Cathedral labyrinth, that is the Rose, which John James suggests “is the Lamb, described in Revelation as being the centre of the Heavenly Jerusalem.” (James 2)
On the front of the  booklets I glued a map of Europe as it looked during the medieval period.  When laid out in the correct numerical sequence, the booklets come together to form a complete map as Margery would have known it.  Her pilgrimages that took place in England correspond with the piece of map that has been attached to that particular section of the text and this has been done for all the other pilgrimages  as far as was possible, save for one repeated journey to Italy.

I was keen to reconstruct the experience of the scribe and used quill and ink to number my booklets and put the place names that she visited on each of the front covers.  This was a highly enjoyable experience, if somewhat messy.  I found it very difficult to get the ink to spread evenly as I wrote and suffered many failed attempts before I came to the finished piece.IMG_1075 IMG_1068

Every element of my project has  a purpose and meaning behind it and expresses my desire to experience some of the elements of medieval life.  For example, the recipe for dragges was recently deciphered by Kalas Williams so I purchased the necessary ingredients and set about making them for myself.  IMG_1050The sugared mixture hardens quickly and broke my measuring spoon in the process.

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A small leather pouch was constructed from hide to carry the dragges in, and was then attached to my larger book bag which houses the six booklets and Labyrinth map, the construction of which I will continue to describe in my next blog.

 

 

 

Hypertext. What’s the big whoop?

Isn’t it a bit presumptous, not least to say arrogant, to declare that the book is dead?  In an article by Adam Hammond entitled ‘Literature in the Digital Age‘ he refers to Katherine Hayle’s argument that “Nearly all human communication, from e-mail and text messages to phone calls and snail mail, is mediated through some form of digital code.” (Hammond 173)  This fact cannot be denied, not even by a Luddite such as myself.  However, this digital age should not be allowed to lead the debate on the validity of more ‘traditional forms of literary culture.’

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The book in printed form out sold the e-book this year for the second year running, says the Guardian  with a rise in children’s books and adult colouring books accounting for the majority of this increase.

 

As a parent of a teenager, I can testify to the popularity and preference of young people for print over electronic literature, as my daughter (13) asked for a new book at bedtime which I downloaded within minutes onto my Kindle and gave to her.  I could not have attained the desired product with such immediacy if I had been relying on the book shop and print.  A few days later she returned the Kindle and asked for the sequel with the proviso that it would come in printed form the next time.  This dislike for the electronic book did not come from me I hasten to add.  She said that it could not replace holding the product in her hands and turning the pages ‘properly.’

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The Guardian suggests that children use books as ‘down time’ from their increasingly digital lives of social networking and gaming and as the first generation to have grown up in a completely digitized world it says something about the true nature of books if the next generation are turning to traditional modes of reading for relaxation.

Arguments for hypertext as a literary and empowering experience for the reader over the author, have no legitimacy.  As Hammond’s article suggests, print is just as interactive and participatory as digital literature postulates, through the constructive discussions that take place in the classroom, in reading groups and in the varied formats of academic journals.  It’s also important to note that the language of digital code has an author and everything in digital literature is constrained by the limitations of an author in some shape or form.  We only see what the author wants us to see.

The ability that hypertext gives the reader to traverse multiple platforms during their reading experience is perhaps something that the linear printed experience cannot replicate as efficiently but, what digital literature fails to acknowledge, is that, “A word is not a static container for meaning, but rather a little apparatus that is not only marked by it’s own history as etymology but also by the reader’s personal experience with that word.”  (Szilak 3)  In other words, a word is many things to many people and it has a life past it’s digital construction.  For Illya Szilak, in an article entitled “Towards Minor Literary Forms: Digital Literature and the Art of Failure” digital literature adds to our humanity, he argues for a co-cohabitant relationship between print and digital forms, exclaiming that both have a legitimacy and both are ‘art.’  It is to this end that I would have to agree.

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Having interacted with the hypertextuality of ‘Pry‘, an e-literature which incorporates “Custom interactive gestures, audiovisuals, and psychological insights” (Jhave) I struggled to appreciate, what was surely a deeply intense and remarkable plot due to it’s overly ‘interactive’ nature.  Jhave describes this ‘micro-drama’ and it’s gestures as “Playful, giddy, strange” serving more as a distraction than an enhancement of the plot.  It is suggested that “It is difficult to allow entry into darkness if the door is a playground.”  Perhaps that is what digital literature is to me.  I only take my kids to the playground these days and I’m not sure I’d fit into the swings anymore.

Something that hypertext has also failed to engage with is the ‘bookishness’ of books.  They are having something of a resurgence recently with regards to the aesthetics of a book culture.  The battle between e-book and print has prompted booksellers to up their game somewhat and printed books can now be seen in the hands of celebrities and models and, in kitsch corners of the furniture market.  Another article in the Guardian testifies to the lengths to which book shops are fighting back.  Some are even employing technology to enhance the book buying experience.

Although I would openly admit that I am a lover of the traditional book in it’s leather bound, musty and tattered form, I can appreciate the innovations in technology to enhance the digital experience and make accessibility to literature a blessing rather than a curse.  Yes, digital books are immediate, pushing the limits of the imagination and endeavouring to capture the nuances of a new digital generation but, even with the advancements of skemorphism, designed to reflect the traditional reading experience, the tangible product of the book cannot be replaced.  The possession of an object of beauty and profound meaning which, is linked to our very humanity, regardless of age, gender or experience, is not quiet ready for it’s demise just yet.  Long live the book bound book!

The Grimoire, a very medieval concept.

Grimoires, the magical books in operation from as early as 12th Century and used by Magus to conjure the angelic and demonic, were used for the purposes of healing, cursing and self edification by means of ritual and sacred instruments.

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The very materiality of the Grimoire itself was important in its construction, as an object which could not be bought or sold but bequeathed to individuals by means of legal agreement.  The books were written on virgin parchment.  All accouterments accompanying such must not have been used prior to the writing of the Grimoire either.  Some Grimoires that were covered in human skin were particular prized possessions.

The emphasis with these magical books was on their ability to hold power within their pages and could only affect their environment if they were hand written and not printed. It is the interjection of the human hand to write the spells down that gives the magus his ability to conjure from the book.  Perhaps it is in the act of writing that something of the person is left on the page?  Magic varies from learned to folk level and from Theurgy to Goetia of which the Grimoire may have held a varying degree of each.  The Magus would invoke divine authority to be able then to conjure a being from the demonic realms.  Plays such as Christopher Marlowe’s ‘Dr Faustus‘ are famous examples of the workings and purposes of the Magus in his search for complete knowledge.

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While the Grimoire suffered in the 17th and 18th Centuries due to a decline in spiritualism and a rise in sciences, forms of low magic continued to play a part in the folklore of local communities.  Talismans and charms are well known products of Irish culture and continue even today in some communities.  Interestingly, the Grimoire is a book that would often be referred to as a ‘creature’, an independent entity with the existence of magic power within it.  My interest in ‘The Book of Margery Kempe‘, which refers to Margery herself in places as ‘this creatur’ harks to the spiritual nature of the time in which she lived and of her behaviour under the influence of the ‘visions’ she had throughout her life.

A recent article view here in the Guardian claims to have shed some light on the personage of Margery Kempe.  A small recipe for making lozenges to ease neurosis lies within the back pages of the manuscript; an indication of a treatment to control the psychosis of Margery’s incessant wailing and hallucinations.  A modern day anti-depressant perhaps?  Or could it be a medieval wise woman’s spell to cure the flux?  The oral tradition of folk magic would have been known to Margery but as a woman of God would she have consulted with these sorts of people?

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The recipe is for ‘dragges’ small lozenges of herbs and spices which are boiled and cooled and eaten.  Although the recipe for such was most probably not found in a Grimoire, the magical properties which medieval communities believed they possessed are evidence of a form of low magic in the medieval text on which I have based my project.  The issue for me is to try and understand why this particular recipe appears on a copy of the manuscript and who put it there.

 

“For many of us, print books are part of what makes us readers, an exterior environment that habituates and prompts us.”

For Liedeke Plate, in an article entitled ‘How to Do Things with Literature in the Digital Age,’   the materiality of the book is expounded through Anne Carson’s recent work ‘Nox.’  Her article explores some of the issues surrounding the book’s form and the materiality of the printed page in post-modernist society.

According to Plate “Electronic digital computing ended the invisibility of books” (Plate, 3) by highlighting what is profoundly missing from the digital form, that being, its lack of aesthetic ‘bookishness.’  She draws attention to the fact that literature is now part of a broad media ecology and is only a single entity in the media experience as a whole.  However, ‘Nox‘ is a book which, like ‘House of Leaves’ claims heritage in the physicality of the book alone.  It cannot be reproduced for the digital age and must instead be touched by the reader and experienced as a concertina that unravels in the reader’s hands.  The “aesthetics of this bookishness may be a response to the digitization of our world” (Plate, 3) but this ‘convergence culture’ is unlikely to saturate the individuality of a book culture that continues to hark after authenticity and agency.  The material culture of books anthropomorphize texts and elevate the author and reader to a shared respect for subject and object.

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Reading ‘Nox‘ felt a little intrusive and personal, uncomfortable even, as I felt the ‘lived experience’ Plate talks about by “pulling the reader into a private act of remembering within the public space of publishing.” (Plate, 8)

This is the magic with which Carson makes her experimental book work.  For me the handwritten elements of the text function “as a marker of authenticity, uniqueness, and personality” (Plate, 8) which make this book feel slightly voyeuristic in nature.  Plate sees this as more then just a text but a literary work which is deeply self-conscious of its materiality and appears unapologetic for this.

The books inability to sufficiently convey adequate translation of the interspersed poem Catullus’ 101, reflects Carson’s inability to fully express her grief for her dead brother both experiencing and lamenting the limits of language as form.  It is in the photography and fragmented scribbles by hand, that her work expresses and reflects upon post-modernist literary culture.  Stephen Burt calls it “an anti-book, about the futility of language in the face of death.” (Burt, London Review of Books 14/7/11)  As book culture transfigures with the aid of digital aesthetics, Luddites such as myself are being forced to take a second look at experimental literature with an open-mindedness that goes against the grain.  It would be easy to dismiss ‘Nox‘ as ‘kitsch’ and “a clever gimmick” (Plate, 14) but there is something deeply moving about it’s intimacy which cannot be ignored.  A box which will stand out among its contemporaries, I imagine it is one I will be tempted to lift down again and again.

“Technology is an essential factor in the history of type….but it is not the only important influence.”

Paul C Gutjahr and Megan L Benton, in their article “Reading the Invisible” suggest that all print is ‘marked’ by its topography and that typeface, as one of the material forms of the book, is inextricably linked to the meaning of a text.  As a technology the printing machine banished the medieval handwriting of the scribe to the archives, but in doing so, allowed printed typeface to become the still distinctive hand of particular printers, places and politics.

Was the coming of print a revolution or the natural progression of power and influence over the masses?  As the book moved from the Scriptoria thugh-latimer-presenting-the-bible-to-king-henry-viii-from-old-england-s-worthies-by-lordo learned academics and eventually into the hands of the general public, opportunities were seized by the powerful and influential to take the book and use it for their own ends.  Henry VIII is the best example of this, when in he suppresses Tyndale’s English bible, only to re-instate it years later to suit his newly reformed Protestant religion.

We are often unaware of the effects of typeface as text is continually re-imagined with every technological advancement.  The ability to apply meaning to typeface becomes more accessible as we move towards a digitally constructed society.  Mark Z Danielewski’s novel ‘House of Leaves’ suggests typeface and the printed page can be manipulated to confound or construct a deeper meaning to text.  His modern take on a horror novel plays on every contrived aspect of the literary tradition and book culture today.  In a very self-conscious attempt to negate the commentary, footnote and reliability of narrative voice, Danielewski asks the reader to suffer pages cluttered with meaningless text (although in the meaninglessness there is meaning) and exuberant amounts of white space were only one of two words dwell.  2211e0716872424393beca8b4b0a422dFonts are employed to represent the standardized culture in which the book has come to exist to the point where finding meaningful meaning is nearly impossible.  The uniformity of print is raped of personality and leaves little of the aesthetic imprints of the author’s hand.  Perhaps that is why the scribes hand is so revered today.  We enter our special collections libraries to handle carefully the intricate and delicate pages of the manuscript with respect for the hand that laboured over its making.  Something of that quality is lost in print and perhaps that is why in Danielewski’s novel we are so drawn to the invisible meaning between the pages.

“Thank God, it will soon be dark.”

The page is ruled, the text, linear and beautiful.  Surrounding the illuminations and headings is a sea of white space.  The scribe is methodical, purposeful with his quill.  His back strained, his eyes tired and his feet cold.  The room, littered with books, is uninviting and dimming by the minute.  His hand drifts to the white space and he drops a little ink.  “Let the reader’s voice honor the writer’s pen.”

40a5e8fdea9278de509d22c756f820a2I have a healthy respect for the medieval scribe.  As a copy typist in my dim and distant past, I sat in the typing pool swamped by paper and desperate to reduce the mounting work on my desk.  There was little to stimulate body or mind, as I watched the clouds gather outside.  How often did I wish I could type in the corner of a page “Christ save me from this boredom.”  Such was the mundane routine of my day that I lasted but a year in that job.

But the medieval scribe was only the first annotator of the medieval page.  Many were to follow.  Scholars, clerics thought nothing of publicly arguing all over the white space.  John Dagenais in his article ‘Decolonizing the Medieval Page‘ views medieval manuscripts in their collaborative form, as the work of many voices annotated and dictated onto the page without a single authoritative voice ruling all.  He suggests we look at the medieval manuscript with all its scribbles and comments “like an open peetree dish, a livic-13-16-cropped-glossedng, growing thing, placed within a fertile, organic medium.” (Dagenais, 39)

This combination of voices, is the commentary tradition in its infancy.  It could be argued that there is nothing more susceptible to interpretation and re-interpretation than the bible.  Patristic commentaries dominated the middle ages and it is through these, that we see the influence and complexities of the commentary tradition as it has evolved.  For example, Scholastic Commentary divided opinion and highlighted the paradoxical nature of scripture as a literal and allegorical text.  Depending on the expected use, some scholars in the late 12th Century wrote biblical commentaries for the pastoral training of clerics with an emphasis on theological instruction, while, others stressed the pastoral responsibilities of the clergy and concentrated their commentaries on preaching and confession.  Not only were the commentaries useful for teaching clerics in the ways of their faith but, they are also an insight into popular philosophies of the time.  For example, Aristotelian influences appear in the prefaces to individual bible books.

While biblical manuscripts gave the clergy plenty to argue over, the one thing that united them was their understanding of authorship which they privileged entirely as God breathed.  As Frans van Liere suggests, “The bible was not just a story about God, but also a story by God.” (Liere, 111)   It was the interpretation of his word that seems to have caused controversy.

It would appear that the implication regarding collective authorial voices, pervades the medieval manuscript and commentary tradition from the beginning.  ‘The Book of Margery Kempe’ is one such example that makes finding a true voice appear almost impossible for the modern academic.  There are four recognizable annotators of this copied text, one of whom, it is assumed, is the scribe himself.  A recent article by Anthony Bale suggests that the scribe is a ‘Richard Salthouse of Norwich.’  Bale postulates that it is in understanding the significance of her scribe that we can see more clearly Margery’s intent and purpose in writing her autobiography.  It also gives us a valuable insight into the manuscript’s possible value to medieval society.

Critics have argued over the extent to which Margery influenced her scribe and vice versa, however, Bale prefers to see Salthouse as Margery’s editor rather than her scribe, having only the lightest of touch on the text, as he retains or notes at the end of book 1, chapter 16 that the reader should “Rede fyrst the xxi chapetre, and than this chapetre aftyr that” (Bale, 177)  The scribe is merely advising the reader how to unravel the narrative to make it read more easily.

With the help of paleography and placing Richard Salthouse within the possibilities of Margery’s Norwich location, Bale is convinced that the “well-trained scribe, probably highly educated and/or in holy orders” is the neat and regular hand of “a monk at Norwich’s Benedictine cathedral priory, one of the country’s most important, powerful, and wealthy ecclesiastical institutions.” (Bale, 177)  It is his opinion that Salthouse’s purpose for copying the text is to have a record of Margery’s life and visions “for posterity, in the format of a textual testament parallel to a monastic record or a hagiographic document, building an orthodox and institutional textual edifice of a remarkable devout woman.” (Bale, 184)

The scribe’s touch in this case is to enhance, to memorialize and to edify those who come after.  Where is Margery’s authorial voice?  I would suggest it is in the ink itself.  There is evidence that the red annotations are most likely advice from a number of Carthusian monks, to the reader, regarding how the text should be read to receive proper spiritual edification but it is in Salthouse’s faithfulness to the original haphazardness of the dictation that gives it ‘authoritative voice’.  The narrative style and remarkable recounting of the events themselves bare all the hallmarks of the sort of person we might imagine Margery Kempe to have been and the annotations, therefore, merely directions to the intended reader regarding how this spiritual commentary, if you like, should be read.  Bale suggests that the commentary in Margery’s case is an attempt to “shape the narrative into a specific devotional genre.” (Bale, 185)  Whether this compromises the text’s authoritative reliability in any way is an entirely different argument.

nabokov-pale-fire__c-12_thumbContemporary writers, such as, Vladimir Nabokov in his novel ‘Pale Fire‘ satirize the commentary tradition, eschewing perspective and formality of the practice, playing with a plethora of assumptions such as, the editor, Charles Kinbote’s comments in the Forward of the novel “Canto Two, your favourite,” (Nabokov, 11)  This early indication that the novel is going to dictate to you rather than persuade you, upsets the validity of the commentator who unravels as the novel progresses.  It is a great example, if not a little extreme, of the subjectivity and unreliability of this long held literary tradition that academics so revere.

 

 

 

 

“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of Library.”

Jorge Luis Borges’ short story,’The Library of Babel’ explicates the universe as an endless 4a52b079f1bd5708aa0d5c45a6e6b9325edc509c_mlibrary inhabited by mankind in his search for the knowledge and truth of life.  Such is the significance of the book as a metaphor for life that, through every cultural shift from the beginning of time, mankind has sought to pay homage to its significance and power.

It is only with the advent of a digital revolution that books as we know them, have been under attack.  Patrick W Connor writes in his article about ‘Hypertext in the last days of the book’ that, The essence of a collective human textuality is – and has always been – its potential to be a hypertext.” (Connor, 9)  As I understand it, he postulates that our current digital culture is a mere natural progression from the collective oral traditions of the 15th Century.  As the book took over from the illiteracy of an oral tradition, links of commonality between sources were lost in the transition.  With print came standardization, literacy and a singular mode of transcription.

hypertextcartoon2In the age of digital technology, hypertext unites a number of sources to work collaboratively where, the material book stands alone as a single source.  Connor praises the hyper-textual possibilities of the digital age and bases his argument for technology over materiality on accessibility and speed.  For example, he says that “...technology is irresistible, because it promises to alter the physical manifestations of space and time in which print has locked the reading process.” (Connor, 17)  Acknowledging that electronic text is reliant on storage media, he suggests that the accessibility of hypertext is superior as it can be accessed multiplicity and simultaneously, all around the world, giving power to the reader, over the author.  The hypertext can be manipulated by the reader as it is constructed and deconstructed with the click of a button.  It could be argued that their ability to manipulate it, only serves to undermine and debase the original source, i.e. the material book and perhaps removes the relationship that the reader has in the past built up with the book as a material object.

If we take as an example, the medieval text ‘The Book of Margery Kempe‘ written in the 15th Century, it can be seen from the one surviving copy of the manuscript that as an orally dictated piece, by the author to a scribe, it stands alone as a text which is designed to be read from beginning to end in linear fashion.  It was digitized and put on the internet by the British Library for academics to pour over in high definition from their computer screens and hugely advantageous as this has been for anyone wishing to get close to the text, it cannot replicate the intimacy felt by holding the material book itself in your hand and touching the original vellum pages as they were intended.  The hand-written text brings the reality of this book to life as we are encouraged to imagine the scribe having to physically copy word for word from the original document to its completion.  Even the sophisticated skeumorphism of the digital age cannot replicate the smell and touch of the original work.

Patrick W Connor does not completely validate the death of the book in its linear form but does suggest that hypertext will change the way we read.  A “residual bookness” (Connor, 21) will continue to pervade the digital age but the globalized accessibility of digital textualities will continue to challenge a Luddite such as myself.  It is with a certain amount of hesitance then, that my search for the infallible “catalog of catalogs” (Borges, 112) continues regardless.