Books in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

While folding & sewing copies of our Codex Miscellany last weekend, we listened (as we often do) to one of Marc Maron's WTF podcasts. This one featured John Hodgman, the celebrated author of fake trivia.

Starting at the 64:30 mark, they embark on a 10-minute tangential discussion encompassing Roland Barthes, Walter Benjamin, and the nature of authenticity in art. Seems HM is Barthian by nature: those 10 minutes do a pretty good job of summarizing our attitude toward art (or publishing), creation (of books), and particularly discussion thereof.

Thinking ahead to Codex, and the wide spectrum of book forms and production methods that will be on display, the podcast discussion summarizes what, for many of the exhibitors and visitors at Codex, are core issues for contemporary "book arts." The quotes here are intended to cover the full spectrum participating at Codex, from self-proclaimed book artists - people experimenting with form, concepts & preconceptions - to traditional fine press publishers, for whom anything other than letterpress is not interesting. HM lands closer to the latter of those extremes, but hopefully not all the way over. Our methods are our methods, but they are not intended to be value judgments on others' methods.

And at the end of the day, really what we're talking about is digital output. While not prejudiced against it, we admit to a lack of interest in digital production. At least for type/text. (Maybe if people put greater effort into using interesting papers, but that's one of digital's limitations.) Art that is created in a digital matrix has an easy and obvious argument for digital output; but digital reproductions, no. We'll leave photography for that crowd to argue, while simply noting that much art and craft lived in the dark room. To paraphrase deadmau5, with digital files all you do is press Print.

Have a listen to those 10 minutes of Maron's interview with Hodgman. The link here takes you to a site with the whole podcast; you can jump ahead to the 64:30 mark. WTF episodes are also available for free through the iTunes store.