Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Creation of Beautiful Things

I am not a Luddite who believes that e-books are not "real" books. I own an e-reader and love it, though I also read traditional paper books, listen to audiobooks (gotta love the Jeeves and Wooster series by P.G. Wodehouse - bally stupendous!), and I compulsively read articles on the web. I am always reading, writing, and encountering art.

But sometimes I see things that make me recognize all over again how lovely traditional books can be, and the things they do best. Below is an example of a physical book, engineered to be a work of art. Click the picture for a larger version.

It is a 17th century British "trick" poem "I Saw a Peacock with a Fiery Tail." The video below explains the genre and shows the book and the poem being read.

I don't just love this book because it is beautiful. I love it for what it does with language, which is what all great poetry does with language. It makes us look closer, think more deeply, and imagine extraordinary things.

This book could have been animated on a computer very easily. Printing physical copies was an incredibly complex challenge (read the publisher's blog here for the story). What is the value of human determination to create lovely things that serve no purpose but to delight? I don't know, but it's my favorite aspect of human beings and keeps from becoming discouraged by the ugly side of things.

For other ambitiously intricate books, check out Jonathan Safran Foer's Tree of Codes here, and The Night Life of Trees here.

Found via Brain Pickings.

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