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Humanist Archives: Nov. 16, 2019, 9:03 a.m. Humanist 33.412 - meditation on technology, commerce and craft

                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 33, No. 412.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                   Hosted by King's Digital Lab
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        Date: 2019-11-15 13:34:19+00:00
        From: lachance@chass.utoronto.ca
        Subject: Technology, Commerce and Craft


From a town in eastern Canada (Kentville, Nova Scotia) comes this
"simplistic example" notable for its meditation on technology, commerce
and craft...

Andrew Steves
Smoke Proofs: Essays on Literary Publishing, Printing & Typography (2014)

"The Ecology of Publishing: an interview"


I started my typographic education with hand-set lead type and letterpress
even though I knew I was destined to do most of my design work on a
computer. I started off with letterpress because I wanted to understand
how type worked and where it began. That experience was invaluable, and I
loved letterpress so much that I just kept doing it alongside all of the
digital design work I do. But my point is that we need to understand the
tools we use and the tradition we work in. You need to understand what job
one tool does well but another does not. This is why we combine many
generations of technology in our shop; the inventory of the tools we use
really spans the whole history of typography. It's a very broad toolbox. I
don't want to rule out a tool just because it's old or new. But I do want
to understand what it does well and the implications of using it.

The electronic text formats and the types of hardware we use them on are
still evolving. Personally, electronic texts don't interest me that much,
at least not as something I'd want to manufacture. This is largely because
I'm having too much fun making physical books. But I do see their value.
When I want to read Thoreau's writings, I have most of the volumes in the
wonderful Houghton Mifflin series that was produced by the Riverside Press
in the 1890s. I often end up trying to locate a line or two in a book I've
read, and I'll remember that it was part way through this or that volume
on a verso page near the top; I might have made a small mark in the margin
with a pencil. And I will find it again. There's something about our
relationship with the codex format and the light reflected off of a book
page that helps us with reading, and with recall. There's something
sympathetic to our physiology about that information storage and
transmission format. However, if I want to count how many times Thoreau
mentions pine trees in _The Main Woods_, I don't go to the paper edition.
I go instead to the searchable pdf of that same Riverside Press edition
which is loaded on my laptop. That's an incredibly elegant tool when used
for that particular task. This is a simplistic example but it demonstrates
my point: you have to understand what tool does what job best.


Francois Lachance

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