Figure 11.09.02
The manuscript. An auratic object in the age of endless, disembodied reproduction?

I received the manuscript for What You Will in physical form, not as a digital file. This is unusual nowadays, and my first thought was to ask Kyle (the author, Kyle Schlesinger) to send me the files. But as I was asking for the digital copy, I realized that maybe I didn’t want or need them, that retyping the poems would give me a (productive) chance to get to know them a lot better.

From Karl Young, “Notation and the Art of Reading,” A Book of the Book: Some Works & Projections about the Book & Writing, Steven Clay and Jerome Rothenberg, eds. (New York: Granary Books, 2000), 40:
[…] A certain aura would have surrounded a manuscript fascicle of Donne’s poems coming into a reader’s hands in 1620. […] He would first read through them quietly, perhaps silently. He would try to get a general sense of the poem, then concentrate on details. He would probably commit some of them to memory, and might make copies of some or all of them. Copying was a form of reading in those days: a way of becoming one with the text, of tracing its graphic form, much the way art students have copied paintings and drawings as part of their apprenticeship. In 17th century Europe there were still monks who copied scripture as a form of prayer: they spoke the words as they wrote, touched the sacred energy of the script, and created more copies that could be used to save other souls. Transcribing also aided memorization. […]
[I’ve been thinking a great deal lately about the relationship(s) between scribing/copying, writing, and reading. Those thoughts may play a role in the development of this book. At the very least, it will spawn some blog posts.]

So I retyped all of the poems. While I was doing it, I noticed new things, important things that had not come to my attention yet. I paid more attention to structure, to punctuation, to capitalization, to spelling (Kyle uses some purposely misspelled words in these poems), and to all of those “physical” factors that go into determining the manuscript of the poems.

[It occurs to me in writing this that this is the same sort of relationship with the text that setting type by hand fosters. The advantage to the initial retyping is that it happens earlier in the process, before any design decisions have been made. I’ve been considering setting this book by hand anyway. But we shall see, as my access to type is very limited these days.]

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