Here in this new place, new information, new paths on old lines of inquiry emerge. An entire subject, the history of the book, that could be applied imaginatively to a productive practice of making and distributing books today. We can look at old formations, old and current ideas about them, and use those to construct new possibilities for books, for makers of books, for readers of books.
[…] The task of the historian is, then, to reconstruct the variations that differentiate the “readable space” (the texts in their material and discursive forms) and those which govern the circumstances of their “actualization” (the readings seen as concrete practices and interpretive procedures).
[…] Hence the attention placed upon the manner in which (to use the terms of Paul Ricoeur) the encounter between “the world of the text” and “the world of the reader” functions (Time and Narrative, 3:6). To reconstruct in its historical dimensions this process of the “actualization” of texts above all requires us to realize that their meaning depends upon the forms through which they are received and appropriated by their readers (or listeners). Readers, in fact, never confront abstract, idealized texts detached from any materiality. They hold in their hands or perceive objects and forms whose structures and modalities govern their reading or hearing, and consequently the possible comprehension of the text read or heard. In contrast to a purely semantic definition of the text, which characterizes not only structuralist criticism in all its variants but also literary theories concerned with reconstructing the modes of reception of works, it is necessary to maintain that forms produce meaning, and that even a fixed text is invested with new meaning and being (statut) when the physical form through which it is presented for interpretation changes. […]

I would add that “a fixed text is” also “invested with new meaning and being” when its mode of distribution/reception changes. It’s not just the physical form in which the text is manifested, but the way in which that form is transmitted to the reader, both on the local level of their individual experience and also in the culture at large. The physical form and the mode of distribution are intimately connected, and I think it is important to parse out the differences between (and work with the relationships between) the qualities of the immediate form (size, paper, typography, weight, design), the modes of production of that form (Printed or electronic, offset, mimeo, letterpress, photocopy, handwritten? Limited edition or mass produced? Unique?) and the manner in which it is distributed (In print: Through libraries? Sold? Given away? At fairs? At readings? Among immediate friends? In bookstores? Big or small? As a whole or serial? Electronic: an e-reader text, specific to a certain machine, or a raw text file? Sold? Given away? Downloadable or passed on physical media? Floating or tied to a specific website or series of websites? As a whole or serial?)
[…] We must also realize that reading is always a practice embodied in gestures, spaces, and habits. Far from the phenomenology of reading, which erases the concrete modality of the act of reading and characterizes it by its effects, postulated as universals, history of modes of reading must identify the specific dispositions that distinguish communities of readers and traditions of reading. […]
People in different cultures, in different communities, at different times, read differently. I think that it is important for makers of books to study these prior/different modes of reading, identify current modes of reading (and the kinds of text that they are attached to), and imagine new ones that could potentially be actualized through the making of books. And this might not have to be just working with the paths and procedures that an individual reader might use. Is it possible to create new social situations of reading? (Example: the different readings that we experience versus reading a book on our own, reading it as part of a book club, or reading it for a class.) How does or can the act of reading affect the being-in-the-world of the reader(s)?

The sections transcribed above are from: Roger Chartier, “Laborers and Voyagers: From the Text to the Reader,” reprinted in The Book History Reader, David Finkelstein and Alistair McCleery, eds., ( London: Routledge, 2002), 48.



A hand and surprise. We are caught in this dream again. In this dream again, interspersed and beating, beading, like that, on that lip. Huddled, pale light sketched and held in pale hands. This room is orange and green. It is not ours.

Aware of a flickering space. Aware of a hand, now gone, now interspersed, this room is green. This room is gray in this light. This room is gray in this space, hanging, diffuse, permeable. Unable to breathe. Pink like that and pale. This room is not where we are.

Once again drawn in. Pale light sketched and held in pale hands. It must be morning, it must be spilling over and cold. In it we are interspersed.



Working on some new lettering/design ideas while I wait for the rest of my in-progress materials to arrive. These are some initial sketches, feasibility tests, of an approach to lettering (probably for the title on the cover/jacket of the next book) based on the page design schema that I enjoy so much. Trying to see if I can get it to do new things.



& a reader of this blog, or some of my other book-things might notice that I am obsessed with beginnings:
It was he that told me I’d begun all wrong, that I should have begun differently. He must be right. I began at the beginning, like an old ballocks, can you imagine that? Here’s my beginning. Because they’re keeping it apparently. I took a lot of trouble with it. Here it is. It gave me a lot of trouble. It was the beginning, do you understand? Whereas now it’s nearly the end. Is what I do now any better? I don’t know. That’s beside the point. Here’s my beginning. It must mean something, or they wouldn’t keep it. Here it is...

& also with non-beginnings in that whenever I want to emphasize a beginning I begin with an ampersand, partly as a nod to the decorated initials of illuminated manuscripts but mostly as way to stress the idea that every beginning is only provisional, imaginary, mythological, because everything, always is part of, subject to, the great continuity.

I am meditating on beginnings here, now, at the end of the day, in the bleeding of night into day, because I find myself slowly making my way into yet another. Another new life that will hopefully be a refined continuation of the old life—better, always better, a little bit anyways, if we are willing to work for it.

& of course beginning again, and doing something over again, or reading something over again, can yield attention to new things. In the case transcribed below (taken from Karl Young’s essay “Notation and the Art of Reading.” Reprinted in A Book of the Book: Some Works & Projections about the Book and Writing, Steven Clay and Jerome Rothenberg, eds. (New York: Granary Books, 2000), 47-8.) I can once again see how this new beginning is another link in the great and vibrant history that we are all a part of:

[…] A large portion of the audience for contemporary poetry gets involved in publishing the work of other poets at some time in their lives, and this becomes a further means of participation. They may act only as a magazine’s assistant editor for a short time, or they may edit their own magazines, or run their own presses. For some, this becomes a way of life. Poet-publishers tend to read manuscripts carefully and critically in determining whether or not to publish them, and they put a great deal of effort into the means of producing those they decide to publish. This type of activity tightens the bonds between poets, opens channels of communication with a larger audience, gives the editors a sense of proportion in terms of nature, size, and scope of their audience, and, again, can encourage the intimacy with the text latent in copying. Publishing requires commitment and encourages the poet-publisher to be textual analyst, literary critic, and graphic designer. Working with layout, type, perhaps presswork and binding, has suggested new kinds of notation and presentation and has inspired work that would otherwise not have been done. The method of production a poet-publisher uses often effects or reflects her or his work: offset publishers often write differently from letterpress printers. The mimeo format of d.a. levy publications continues to be an integral part of the outlaw urgency of the work, even though levy’s been dead for many years. The austere design and impeccable typography of Elizabeth Press Books underscores the restrained precision of the poets published in that series. The limited press runs and personalized distribution of most poetry publishers creates a sense of intimacy and fellowship not unlike that created by the circulation of manuscripts in Donne’s time. […]

& in the section after that he actually goes on to talk about artists’ books, but let’s hold back a little, but let’s save a little, maybe for tomorrow, maybe for our next false beginning, true & brilliant in the brilliant light.



Everything seems so quiet lately. The move is happening this week. Posts will resume on a more regular and frequent basis once I am settled in to my new mountain fortress.