Most of the books that came to The University of Texas at Austin as part of the John Henry Wrenn Library didn’t look like old books when they arrived in 1918 and still don’t look old now—not as old, at least, as the publication dates of the printed pages inside would suggest. [Read more…] about Revealing an English Schoolmaster’s Piers Plowman
Exhibitions + Events
Nobel Prize–winning author Doris Lessing was born one hundred years ago, on October 22, 1919. [Read more…] about Celebrating 100 years of Doris Lessing
During the latter half of the nineteenth century, cheap and shoddy reprints of Jane Austen’s novels brought her work to the general public. [Read more…] about Why are some books collected and others merely read?
One of the most celebrated objects in the history of photography is featured in a permanent exhibition just inside the main entrance to the Harry Ransom Center. The untitled photograph—the earliest known surviving photograph made with the aid of the camera obscura—was produced in 1827 by the French scientist and inventor Joseph Nicéphore Niépce using a process he called héliographie. Permanent exhibitions are never really “permanent,” however; objects may remain in place, but their meanings are always evolving, and exhibitions are periodically revised to reflect those advances. [Read more…] about Introducing ‘The Niépce Heliograph’
“Pray forgive my frankness when I say that two of them are not only not by A.B. [Aubrey Beardsley], but are not in the least like him! It is astonishing to me how many people are taken in. Is it not perhaps because they buy a name and not a work of art? I hope that is your excuse. But you are in good company.”
— R. A. Walker (1944)
When Johann Gutenberg and his team published their Bible in the mid-1450s, what they were selling to buyers were sets of sheets, sheets of either paper or parchment that had text printed on them. What they were not selling were books—not, at least, if we take “book,” as we usually do, to imply a codex that is ready to read by turning a series of leaves held together at one edge. As I have written before, when a monastery, church, or private individual bought a Bible from Gutenberg, they had to find a scribe to add red text to spaces that the printers had left blank. Gutenberg’s customers had to find bookbinders, too.