Sunday Book-Thought 26

These blank spaces, left after the writer has tried to vanquish what Stéphane Mallarmé called “the terrifying whiteness of the page,” are the very spaces in which the readers can exercise their power, in those gaps that were for Roland Barthes the essence of the erotic thrill, the interstices in the text (but we can apply this to the physical text on the page as well), which he described as “there where the clothes gape.” In those openings between the edge of the paper and the edge of the ink, the reader (let us stretch this image as far as it will go) can cause a quiet revolution and establish a new society in which the creative tension is established no longer between page and text but between text and reader.
Alberto Manguel

Sunday Book-Thought 24

The demise of the marginal tradition might be attributed to the printing press, which used repeatable blocks to frame pages of Books of Hours and limited the newly discovered Grotesque decorations to another ‘modern’ invention, the title page. As Samuel Kinser notes, compared to the manuscript book the printed book ‘has small margins just wide enough for a word or two, an emendation, an exclamation.’ The urge to have clean edges often resulted in medieval manuscripts being cruelly cropped down, a practice typical of the increasing disrespect for everything but the text in subsequent centuries. The great religious upheaval of the Reformation also had its effect on the eradication of the medieval image-world. A great rift opens up between words and images. Language is now in a separate realm, written in discrete boxes or in fields hanging in the picture space.
Focusing all representation in the middle, the centre where man stood resplendent, Renaissance thinkers pretended that they no longer required this space of ‘otherness,’ unless it be the new edges of the World being discovered by Columbus.
Michael Camille