June 12, 2012
March 20, 2012
"Its Author Claims No Special Importance for It."
“It is with many misgivings that this little volume is committed to the press. Its author claims no special importance for it. It does not pretend to be a complete and connected history of our Church, either in the period of which it treats, or in the territory to which it relates. He is fully aware of its fragmentary and imperfect character, and of the very limited interest that will be taken in its pages. His excuse for offering it to the public, already surfeited with books, is the fact that its publication has been insistently urged by judicious friends, who have some knowledge of its character.”
So goes the preface of a book published over one hundred years ago, in 1904.Continue reading ""Its Author Claims No Special Importance for It.""
Posted by Dan Reid at 10:43 AM
March 2, 2012
David Ishii: A Bookseller Rooted in a Place
I just love this story! I’ve visited David Ishii’s bookstore a few times, but I don’t think I ever spoke with him. I regret that. What a wonderful guy—so connected with a place—Seattle and its Pioneer Square. And yet connected to a much wider community of Asian-American writers. In my mind, this epitomizes what a used bookstore should be.
Is it a dying institution? (Ishii operated nearly within sight of Amazon’s offices.) Maybe. Maybe not. I’m holding out the hope that the physical book will retain its attraction for many of us. And that bookstores like Ishii’s will survive. We have a great one in our town, and I support it every opportunity I get!
Posted by Dan Reid at 12:46 PM
November 14, 2011
What's In Your Codex, O Theophilus? (Part Two)
Well, we return again to our Theophilus and his codex. Why did the early Christians adopt the codex for their scriptural texts? Was there an initial impulse that set it off? We need to hang a sign over these thoughts that reads “We Don’t Know, But… .”
In addition to the practical considerations surveyed in the previous blog, there is the intriguing theory that a certain significant early Christian set the precedent of using the codex: Paul. If even the author of 2 Peter (a late dating would be 70-110) knew of Paul’s letters as a collection (“all his letters”) and regarded them as Scripture (2 Peter 3:15-16), might they have been bound in codex form? Might this codex then have taken on some sort of iconic meaning?Continue reading "What's In Your Codex, O Theophilus? (Part Two)"
Posted by Dan Reid at 12:25 PM
November 9, 2011
What's In Your Codex, O Theophilus? (Part One)
Recently I’ve been reading Charles Hill’s Who Chose the Gospels? and rereading some of Larry Hurtado’s The Earliest Christian Artifacts. Both of these are excellent books with various interesting facets. And both have something to say about a topic that has intrigued me over the years: that the early Christians were very early adopters of a new technology, the codex, or book, as opposed to the scroll, or roll.Continue reading "What's In Your Codex, O Theophilus? (Part One)"
Posted by Dan Reid at 10:09 AM
September 29, 2011
Spicing Up the ATA
In the book industry we call it the ata, “about the author,” the little blurb on the dust jacket (or in the catalog or on the website) that gives a snapshot of the author’s life or some relevant portion thereof. Academic ata’s are the most predictable and dry of the ata’s. They basically try to establish the academic creds of the author—“got her PhD there, teaches here, has written this and that.” It feels transgressive to go beyond that—“has ten kids, drives a cobalt blue BMW, roots for the Bears”—conventional wisdom says that kind of stuff would diminish the stature of the author. We couldn’t take the author seriously.
But maybe expectations have changed in this day of Facebook and tweeting and all. Shouldn’t we be prying open a little slit in the fence around the academic author’s life? There’d be risk in this—some of our readers might get the wrong idea when they learned the author likes to sip bourbon while playing poker. But who knows? Maybe we’d gain more readers than we’d lose.
In our publishing house, it’s the editor who generally writes the ata. And the editor doesn’t want to stick his or her neck out by being overly creative with the ata. We might embarrass the author and lose the opportunity to publish their next book.
Posted by Dan Reid at 11:16 AM
September 15, 2011
Scribes Have Culture, Authors . . . Not So Much
I’ve been revisiting some books on ancient scribal and literary production—books like David M. Carr’s Writing on the Tablet of the Heart, Karel van der Toorn’s Scribal Culture and the Making of the Hebrew Bible and William Schniedewind’s How the Bible Became a Book. It’s become clear that in thinking about “publishing” texts in the ancient Near East in general we need to clear away some modern conceptions of authors and editors and recast others. So if authors and editors want to have A Year of Living Biblically (or maybe Babylonially), here’s how it’s going to look:Continue reading "Scribes Have Culture, Authors . . . Not So Much"
September 9, 2011
The 2111 Paper Book Festival
This weekend I will again attend the annual Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival (in Port Townsend, Washington), the finest of its kind on the West Coast, if not in the world. And on Sunday I’ll be starting to teach an adult Sunday school class on How We Got the Bible, in honor of the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. So I’ve been reading up again on ancient book culture and the history of Bible translation. This reminded me of a blog I did two years ago, which I’ve refurbished for today.
The Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival is a grand celebration of an old technology and traditional material—wood. Which is to say, it’s a celebration of boats with wooden hulls rather than the now prevalent fiberglass, or “plastic,” which began to make its appearance in the 1960s and now dominates recreational boat building. It’s a celebration of boats made in the old way and the retrieval of skills nearly lost to newer technology.
The festival includes new wooden boats, evidence of the resurrection of this tradition. But most of them are old, many of them beautiful specimens in “bristol” condition and top working order (testimony to a passion calling for boundless patience, sweat and money). And most of them are sailing vessels, from sailing dinghies to magnificent schooners. The tradesmen who are maintaining this craft of building and repairing wooden boats—many of them in or around Port Townsend—are present, giving demonstrations and seminars and advertising their services. There are sailboat races, musicians performing nautical tunes, “pirates” wandering the grounds and a swelling tide of tall nautical tales being exchanged.
This set me to imagining a day—say, one hundred years hence—when people gather for an annual Paper Book Festival.Continue reading "The 2111 Paper Book Festival"
Posted by Dan Reid at 8:46 AM
March 9, 2010
Some of them have been my friends for two score years or more and have traveled over 25,000 miles with me. Many of them have been my daily companions and have overseen much of what I have done. And now I’m thinking of dumping them. They’ve outlived their usefulness. I don’t have room in my life for them any more. We just can’t go on like this. It’s painful, but this parting of ways was bound to happen sooner or later.Continue reading "Judgment Day! "
March 2, 2010
Pete Schoening’s Ice Ax
A few days ago I was in Golden, Colorado. Some know Golden as the home of Coors. But more importantly, it is the home of the Bradford Washburn American Mountaineering Museum. For climbers, it’s a fascinating place. For non-climbers, it’s at least interesting (as my wife and son would attest).
There is a lot of climbing equipment on display, offering a historical perspective on the development of modern mountaineering. I have a small sampling of those climbing artifacts in my garage. And a treasured piece—my grandfather’s ice ax from the early twentieth century when he was a guide on Longs Peak, Colorado—is in my office.Continue reading "Pete Schoening’s Ice Ax"
Posted by Dan Reid at 2:35 PM
February 17, 2010
Libraries Up in Smoke!
Every reader of this blog must take a look at Ben Myers’s “Twelve theses on libraries and librarians.” It’s marvelous!
But as I was soaking it in, I started to think about what ebooks are going to do to this great cultural institution. Then my eyes wandered to a postcard above my desk that replicates the time-worn declaration that readers in Oxford’s Bodleian Library must promise to obey:
Is it just happenstance that the word kindle appears here? I’ve wondered where Amazon got the name for its ebook reader, Kindle. Was it here? Is Amazon’s subversion of libraries this cynical?
The Bodleian must update its oath and not allow any Kindle (or like devices) within its hallowed walls! It is a digital incendiary device! Surely if any fire or flame has ever threatened to reduce the library as an institution to ashes, it is the Kindle!
Ash Wednesday, 2010
February 9, 2010
There, Amid Volumes Open Lying Round
In her study of the sixteenth-century scholar and publisher Robert Estienne (also known as Stephanus), Elizabeth Armstrong cites (and translates) a pseudo-Horatian poem written by John Dorat in 1538. The poem is based on the scholar Junius Rabirius’s account of his visit to Estienne’s printing establishment in the interest of getting his books published. While our technology has changed, there is much that remains the same:Continue reading "There, Amid Volumes Open Lying Round"
Posted by Dan Reid at 11:38 AM
December 29, 2009
My Great Unfinished Books of 2009
Some of my friends like to record all the books they read in the past year and blog about them. I could do that too, and you might be impressed. But since my New Year’s resolution is to become the most humble reader on the face of the earth—and the most transparent too!—here’s my list of unfinished books of 2009.Continue reading "My Great Unfinished Books of 2009"
September 15, 2009
The 2109 Paper Book Festival
Last weekend I attended the annual Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival (in Port Townsend, Washington), the finest of its kind on the West Coast, if not the world. It is a grand celebration of an old technology and traditional material—wood. Which is to say, it’s a celebration of boats with wooden hulls rather than the now prevalent fiberglass, or “plastic,” which began to make its appearance in the 1960s and now dominates recreational boat building. It’s a celebration of boats made in the old way and the retrieval of dwindling skills.
There were new wooden boats on display, indicators of the resurrection of this tradition. But most of them are old, many of them beautiful specimens in “bristol” condition and top working order (testimony to a passion calling for boundless patience, sweat and money). The tradesmen who are maintaining this craft of building and repairing wooden boats—many of them in or around Port Townsend—are present, giving demonstrations and seminars and advertising their services. There are sailboat races, musicians performing nautical tunes, “pirates” wandering the grounds and a swelling tide of tall nautical tales being exchanged.
This set me to imagining a day—say, one hundred years hence—when people gather for an annual Paper Book Festival.Continue reading "The 2109 Paper Book Festival"
August 26, 2009
Laying Up for Winter
I’ve been noticing it for the past couple weeks. On my occasional morning runs up Tiger Mountain, Doug Fir cones are beginning to litter the trail. Some of them are shredded. Most are whole, and potential roller skates for unwary human feet. I can hear cones ricocheting through the branches and thumping into the undergrowth and forest duff below, and the sound of little feet scurrying in the barky trees. On the squirrel calendar, it’s time for cutting down cones and laying up provender for winter. The mountainside echoes with their industry, and my dog—who hardly wastes a worry over his next meal—makes sport of harassing this busy crew.Continue reading "Laying Up for Winter"
August 17, 2009
The Joy of Ordering and Receiving "Real" Books
I was poking around in C.S. Lewis’s Letters the other day, looking for something I recall reading years ago, and I came across a passage in a letter to Arthur Greeves. Lewis is speaking of the fun of ordering and receiving books in the mail. He writes:
Continue reading "The Joy of Ordering and Receiving "Real" Books"