Sunday Book-Thought 118

The figure of the text ‘processed’ on a computer is like a phantom to the extent that it is less bodily, more ‘spiritual’, more ethereal. There is something like a disincarnation of the text in this. But its spectral silhouette remains, and what’s more, for more intellectuals and writers, the program, the ‘software’ of machines, still conforms to the spectral model of the book. Everything that appears on the screen is arranged with a view to books: writing, lines, numbered pages, coded indications of forms (italics, bold, etc.), the differences of the traditional shapes and characters. There are some tele-writing machines that don’t do this, but ‘ours’ still respect the figure of the book – they serve is and mimic it, they are wedded to it in a way that is quasispiritual, ‘pneumatic’, close to breathing: as if you had only to say the word and it would be printed.
Jacques DerridaPaper Machine, trans. by Rachel Bowlby (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2005), p. 30.

Laying Out Layout

I’m not usually big on book and essay reviews, but I’ll make an exception for M.B. Parkes. His paper – “The Influence of the Concepts of Ordinatio and Compilatio on the Development of the Book” – has come up in a couple of my classes, and every time I read it I learn something new. If you want to read the paper for yourself, it comprises the third chapter of Parkes’ book called Scribes, Scripts, and Readers: Studies in the Communication, Presentation, and Dissemination of Medieval TextsThe book is pretty well known among book historians, so head to the library and pick up a copy if you want to impress people. If you just want cocktail party material, though, read on! Continue reading “Laying Out Layout”