CONTACT: MELVIN O. SHAW
300 Plaza Centre One
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0010; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: April 11, 2002
Libraries exhibition debut coincides with April 12-14 conference
Created to coincide with an
April 12-14 Craft Critique and Culture Conference sponsored by the University
of Iowa's Department of English, an exhibition in UI Libraries poses the question,"
How is the meaning of a text affected
by the way the words are presented to the reader?"
The exhibition, titled "The Materiality of Text," argues
that throughout history, the reception of text has been influenced by the
way words have been shaped and placed on a given surface. The books and documents
selected for display demonstrate this in several ways, and are viewable through
July 12 at the Special Collections Department, Third Floor, Main Library.
For more conference information, visit http://www.uiowa.edu/~c3conf/.
an example that serves to demonstrate the influence of words in relation to
the substance on which they are printed, folio and miniature English Bibles,
each open to the first page of the book of Psalms, are arranged on the bottom
shelf of each of the six exhibit cases. The earliest is a copy of the "Bishop's
Bible" of 1572. This is
followed by a second edition of the King James translation dated 1617. Modern
editions include Barry Moser's illustrated Bible (1999) and the Arion Press
Bible (2001). Miniature books come from the Charlotte M. Smith Collection
of Miniature Books and include the entire text of the Oxford Lectern Bible,
designed by Bruce Rogers, photographically reduced to fit on a two-inch square
slide. (A "good quality
100x" microscope is recommended for use in reading this version.)
books and documents on the first of the upper shelves illustrate the work
of engraver William Blake, a writer and artist who was deeply concerned with
the presentation of his work. Modern editions show that his work has not always
been thoughtfully preserved. In many historical cases, the publisher controlled
the presentation of a text and the author was not consulted or concerned with
these decisions. This is illustrated in the second case by several versions
of Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven," according to Sid Huttner, head
of Special Collections.
In other situations,
Huttner said, the author took control of the way his or her text was presented,
taking advantage of changing technologies. This is illustrated by a poem by the 19th
century French poet Stephane Mallarme and a poem by Writers' Workshop poet
James Galvin, whose "Dear Prevailing Wind" is shown from his first
scrawled note through typewritten text, an ink jet version, as a periodical
appearance, and in hand-set type and calligraphed editions.
The final case
displays a group of books whose authors have used modern technologies to shape
and present words exactly as they desired. These book artists include Tom Phillips,
Johanna Drucker, and Buzz Spector. Spector's
book consists of 181 identical pages in a cloth binding. The first page has
been torn back to a small stub near the spine; the second page left slightly
wider; and so on to page 181, which has been left intact. The surviving text
shimmers mysteriously through the torn edges.
suggest how the material presentation of a text can influence reader reception.
They also suggest that an analysis of historical text presentation can give
contemporary authors valuable ideas about how they might better communicate
their message. Contemporary digital technology has allowed authors to reinvent
what it means to 'publish.'" Will electronic text incorporate the best
of what we have learned in over 500 years of "printing?" Huttner
For more information
about the April Craft Critique and Culture Conference, visit http://www.uiowa.edu/~c3conf/. The exhibit
will be in place through July 12, 2002.
The exhibit has been organized
by Sara T. Sauers and Tim Barrett of the University of Iowa Center for the
Book, in consultation with Matt Brown, Shari DeGraw, Sarah Roberts, and the
staff of Special Collections.