This week the Hedgehog and the Fox turn their curiosity on books themselves, indeed on a book entitled The Book by Amaranth Borsuk, which appears in the MIT Essential Knowledge Series. Amaranth is a scholar, poet, and book artist who works at the intersection of print and digital media. She’s also assistant professor in the school of interdisciplinary arts and sciences at the University of Washington Bothell. Her book in the MIT Press series examines, as the lapidary copy on the back puts it, ‘the book as object, as content, as idea, as interface’.
Its focus is wide: not just recent developments in digital books, but also artists’ books that challenge the notion of what a book is and does, or the books of Renaissance scholars, where erudite debate would be pursued in marginal annotations, all the way back to the earliest clay tablets which the Sumerians used over 5,000 years ago to record important information.
Amaranth writes in her preface:
I have long been fascinated by the book as a malleable medium for artistic enquiry and by writing technologies as a spur to authorship. My goal in this short work is to bring together several perspectives on the book that illuminate its long history of transformation.
I’d say that’s an ambition in which she succeeds resoundingly. When I spoke to Amaranth, I began by suggesting that she could have confined herself to recent developments in books in the digital age, but chose to cast her net wider.