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Wearing a book

Books are objects to read from. This is true now, and so it was in medieval times. Between then and now, however, medieval books were recycled, old-fashioned as they had become after the dawn of printing. These three items show one particular function served by recycled manuscript material: as lining of clothes - and a hat. All three images show linings cut from parchment leaves: the shape of a vest cut from an Icelandic manuscript dating to 1375-1400 (middle); a late-fifteenth century dress of a Cistercian nun in the convent of Wienhausen supported by a 13th-century Latin text (top); and the lining of a bishop’s miter cut from 13th-century Norse love poetry (bottom) - I blogged about the latter here. While the stiff properties of animal skin made it perfect for supporting soft materials such as clothes and hats, it is an odd idea that someone would walk around wearing medieval books - not to mention a bishop preaching with love poetry on his head. On the bright side, thanks to all this recycling, at least parts of these precious books survive. 

Pic: Vest: Arnamagnæan Samling (University of Copenhagen and Stofnun Árna Magnússonar í íslenskum fræðum, Reykjavík), manuscript 122b, fol. II, more information here and here; Dress with manuscript lining: source unknown to me, but featuring in a lecture by Dr. Henrike Lähnemann and discussed in this blog (source of pic); Bishop’s miter: Den Arnamagnæanske Samling, MS AM 666 b 4to, more here.

I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound and stab us. If the book we’re reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow on the head, what are we reading it for? So that it will make us happy, as you write? Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to. But we need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us. That is my belief.

There’s nothing like the first page of a new journal.

Seeing someone read a book you love is seeing a book recommend a person.

It’s only recently that I’ve come to understand that writers are not marginal to our society, that they, in fact, do all our thinking for us, that we are writing myths and our myths are believed, and that old myths are believed until someone writes a new one.


I think writers should be more responsible than they are, as we’ve imagined for a long time that it really doesn’t matter what we say. I also often have First-Amendment schizophrenia — there’s a lot that I wish wasn’t popular and in circulation, I think there is a lot of damaging material in circulation… I think it’s a beginning for authors to acknowledge that they are myth-makers and that if they are widely read, will have an influence that will last for many years — I don’t think that there’s a strong awareness of that now, and we have such a young culture that there is an opportunity to contribute wonderful new myths to it, which will be accepted.

Kurt Vonnegut (via

Houses of Honey EP by Neighbor

Help Nick Rattray, composer for Philia, and his band Neighbor release their debut album! Their Kickstarter campaign is already over 60% with a week to go!


Christian Bök & Micah Lexier, Two Equal Texts, 2007, vinyl on existing window. As installed at MKG127, Toronto, 2007.

(via such-dull-elves)


Farenheit 451 Book Concept Designed by Elizabeth Perez

(via fuckyeahbookarts)