Monday, June 10, 2019

The Navigator of Print

Books, pamphlets, pictures and music. 

Printed books, pamphlets, pictures and music. 

Printed books, pamphlets, pictures and music in libraries. The birth of libraries confronted its owners, in the 16th century in Europe, with new challenges: how and where to put them on a shelf, how to avoid buying the same book, pamphlets, pictures and music twice, how to make good use of their content? Hernando Columbus (1488–1539) was one of the first (or the first?) to give an answer to these challenges. He solved it with four books and an umbrella process (“root system”). Four books:

Every year a small bookstore will send worth five “ducados” from printed material (books, pamphlets, pictures and music) from Rome, Venice, Nuremberg, Antwerp, Paris and Lyon to Hernando’s universal library (“Hernandina”) in Seville, Spain.  The bookstore will start first with buy as much “ephemeral” or “dunghill” pamphlets as possible and only then moving to larger printed books. They will collect, "all books, in all languages and on all subjects, which can be found both within Christendom and without" (page 316).
Every sixth year an agent from the Hernandina will sweep through a smaller series of cities to seek out titles that had been missed based on the catalogues of the Hernandina.

Hernado wanted his library to become a universal library, where the thoughts of the world were stored, all of the possible fields of knowledge covered and making all terrains one. This library needed to be guarded, ordered, arranged and tended like a garden. The universal library was an engine for extracting the writing of all mankind. To order things in such a way that all new things are sought out and gathered forever. Not bounded by language, subject or religion. A place of pleasure, magic and astonishment (page 84, 240 and 314-317).

Hernando’s father – Christopher Columbus – navigated to and discovered new, unknown physical lands on planet Earth. A navigator of oceans. Hernando wanted with his universal library a place in history equal to his father’s. A navigator of print.

In the book The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books. Young Columbus and the Quest for a Universal Library (London 2018) all the tiny little elements of a personal live that preceded his universal library is worked out with great detail by Edward Wilson-Lee. Lovely! Perfect read!

P.S. Did 'The Book of Authors' consist of one or two lists? (1) list from A to Z from Author with title(s) and year of publication; (2) list from A to Z from Title with its author(s) and year of publication? Did list 2 exist too?
P.P.S. I don't comprehend the relation between 'The Book of Authors' and 'The Book of Sciences' and 'The Table of Authors and Sciences'. Is the table based on the two books? How to order infinitely with physical catalogue or index cards? Catalogue or index cards bearing (hieroglyphic) symbols?
P.P.P.S. The universal library never got the name Hernando wished 'Hernandina' but was and is named 'Biblioteca Colombina'. Today housed in 'Institución Colombina' together with other libraries under one roof.
P.P.P.P.S. I get the impression the process of the universal library never started. The book doesn't tell if it did or not.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Tending Like Garden & Begin Magic

In 1522 Hernando Columbus, son of explorer Christopher Columbus, lost 1,637 of his books in a shipping disaster. Losing these books taught him an important lesson:
"his was not an imaginary library, like the storied one at Alexandria (...). It was a library of flesh and blood - or rather paper, inkt and vellum - and needed to be housed, guarded, ordered and arranged, tended to like a garden that must be restrained from the wilderness to which it always wishes to return. For the first time in his itinerant life, Hernando needed to put down roots, to find a place where his books could be safe; and one whence the library could begin to work its magic upon the world."

He found a house for his books in Seville (Spain):
P.S. Quote from Edward Wilson-Lee, 'The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books' (London 2018), 240.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

History of Snob Taste or Dandy in Age of Mass Culture or A "Sweet" Cynicism

Sunsan Sontag (1933-2004) wrote in 1964 the article Notes on "Camp" (here). Her 58 notes in  sometimes pollarded quotes (bold is added by me):

56. "Camp taste is a kind of love, love for human nature. It relishes, rather than judges."

50. "The history of Camp taste is part of the history of snob taste."  

45. "Camp is the answer to the problem: how to be a dandy in the age of mass culture. One can be serious about the frivolous, frivolous about the serious."

35 and 36. Bosch is camp. Rembrandt is not.

6. "The personality and many of the works of Jean Cocteau are Camp, but not those of André Gide."

8. "[Camp] is the love of the exaggerated, the "off," of things-being-what-they-are-not. The best example is in Art Nouveau, the most typical and fully developed Camp style. Art Nouveau objects, typically, convert one thing into something else: the lighting fixtures in the form of flowering plants, the living room which is really a grotto." 

10. "Camp sees everything in quotation marks. It's not a lamp, but a "lamp"; not a woman, but a "woman." To perceive Camp in objects and persons is to understand Being-as-Playing-a-Role. It is the farthest extension, in sensibility, of the metaphor of life as theater."

19. "The pure examples of Camp are unintentional; they are dead serious. The Art Nouveau craftsman who makes a lamp with a snake coiled around it is not kidding, nor is he trying to be charming."
28. "Again, Camp is the attempt to do something extraordinary. But extraordinary in the sense, often, of being special, glamorous."

55. "Camp is generous. It wants to enjoy. It only seems like malice, cynicism. (Or, if it is cynicism, it's not a ruthless but a sweet cynicism.)"

Friday, May 17, 2019

By The Way

How does reading work for you?

I read in the morning for 2 hours if I can and in bed for 1 to 2 hours in the evening. What I read continually changes. My reading list on Monday is not the same by the time I get to Friday. Mostly I read five books at the same time. I can "read" a book for years and finish it after three years. I always finish a book I started reading. Always! Even if it's a bore and not interesting. Why? Because I don't want to get tricked by my self-made presuppositions.

Once again, the strange thing is my to-do reading list changes every week. Better still, every day. Mostly because of what I actually read in another book. Sometimes a smell, a taste, a picture, wind in my face that brings back memories and that makes me wonder "How?", "What?", "When?", "Why?" and another book is "needed" to answer my questions. Another book on top of my to-do reading pile of physical books.

By the way, I think in the present song lyrics have taken over the meaning for "mainstream" cultural life what poems did between the 17th century and the Second World War. Meaning as in: feel alive, feel connected, touching the senses, cause dreams, repeat and ... - there must be more.


Friday, May 10, 2019

Heather Covered

I would love to visit the Lake District in North-West England - the port to Scotland - with you. Walk over the flowering heathland of 'Lingmoor fell'. Smell and see the colors of Beatrice Potter's her 'Hill Top Farm'. Drink cider. Have dinner. ... - there must be more ;)

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

As Sweet As Cherry Pie

Gotta find out ...

P.S. ... - you know.
P.P.S. I am immensely curious for the rediscovery in Kopenhagen of Fernando Colón's (1488–1539) 'Libro de los Epítomes'. It is the final and most comprehensive copy of his project to summarize all the books of his library. His 'Libro de los Epítomes' is an index of 16 books. These 16 books are not complementary to each other (summary 1 to 20,000) but, to put it in an image, parallel and partly overlapping lists of book summaries. The Kopenhagen copy is the most comprehensive index with 3,500 summaries ... only a little over 2,000 did survive - the first and last part are missing. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Thinking and Questioning

What is philosophy according to me? I define philosophy as 'questioning presuppositions'. In this sense for me philosophy is the complete corpus of science as it was in Ancient Greece too. Did you know that 95% (I didn't count so it's a lucky guess of me) of what "philosopher" Aristotle wrote was about biology? Only a small part is about metaphysics (Greek: ta meta ta phusika. English: after the physics. With Aristotle, these were literally the books that came after the books dealing with nature). To observe. To examine. Cause and effect. Of digging up roots from the ground with a stick. Of cooking food. Of beating or killing an animal or human being. Of the sun that dies in the evening and is born again in the morning. Of stars that re-appear at night. According to me all ingredients of a scientific mindset.

That what we call today philosophy was born in Greece 2,500 ago as science - 2,500 years young! Today only the metaphysics part is considered as "real" philosophy. The rest found a harbour in new scientific areas. With my definition we find a scientific mindset too in Ancient Egypt, Ancient Mesopotamia, Ancient China, Stone Age and ... - there must be more. All of them gave answers to these four questions of Kant: What can I know? What should I do? What can I hope for? What is man?

To my knowledge there was never in history a restriction on studying science or metaphysics. No-one kept the door locked. Requirements: spare time (next to working for your physical survival), ability to read and write, curiosity and wonderment, teachers and access to books.

Ancient Greece wasn't a paradise for scientists or philosophers. Back then only a small part of its population was able to study and actually studied. Mostly only free Greeks but sometimes slaves too. And the rest? They just were not interested and preferred to drink and watch games/ music. Preferred to consume. Above all a lack of curiosity and wonderment. Ancient Rome has the same track record. After Rome was beaten in 4th century AD Christianity took over. Roughly between 600 to 1100 AD the books of Plato and Aristotle were unknown in Western Europe. Thanks to the Arabs (Aristotle) and Byzantine Empire (Plato) their books survived and their philosophy came back to Western Europe.
What's my point? Read for philosophy: science in general. This mindset is of all ages and all times. We all have it and mostly don't give it that name. We learn by doing and learn from teachers and pass through our knowledge from one generation to another. Mostly not condensed in books. The world is bigger than knowledge in books. The amount of people who want to invest to learn to read philosopy-as-metaphysics-books was and always will be small. It requires spare time and transpiration to read, think, re-think and read more. Most people are perfectly happy to limit their life with having a "merry time", to consume and stay away from "difficult" stuff. The constraint is not a lack of access to philosopy-as-metaphysics. The constraint is lack of curiosity for philosopy-as-metaphysics. All people think and ask questions. All people have a scientific mindset. Philosophy-as-metaphysics as a compulsory subject at our schools and universities will not heal the constraints of our time and age. What will? People who travel and study history and use those Others as their mirror.

P.S. I wrote about mirrors before in 'Mirror' (February 2016) and about Others in 'A Little Deeper. Please!' (June 2012).