Judge a book by its cover: the physicality of the book

January - April 2014

Link Gallery, First Floor, Murray Building

Curators: Craig Harkema and Joel Salt


The book, or what we’re loosely calling the book, is commonly judged by the intellectual or creative quality of the ideas expressed in the text that fills its pages.  SBook4ure we may occasionally, secretly, pick up a book because it has an intriguing cover – something shocking, colourful,provocative – but the essence of the book is found in its ideas, is it not?  But what if the page, size,shape, and construction is what garners the most attention?  Or what if the ideas expressed within are so unabashedly connected to its physical properties that it cannot be judged without considering its physicality?  Or what if the ideas expressed in the text are not nearly as significant as the way in which it was made and presented as an artefact? 

This exhibit is comprised mostly of materials from the University Library’s Archives and Special Collections that foreground the physical significance of the book.  Alberto Manguel suggests that the physical features of the book help define it.  As you explore the cabinets, you may be content to appreciate the artistry of the objects.  We have, nonetheless, provided examples and pose questions that may lead to a deeper appreciation of the physical characteristics of the book.  They may even (hopefully) lead to yet more questions. 

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