Rare Book School: Where writers of rare books come to worship rare books
- Not a Kindle, no, but works as kindling! (Photo: Flickr/Lin Pernille)
For five weeks every summer, a bunch of writers of rarely read books meet in the basement of UVA's main library to thumb through even rarer books — and to bemoan the ascendance of the e-book, which has the nerve not to be heavy, or take up tons of space, or wither and crumble over time.
The Post's Daniel de Vise infiltrated the Rare Book School, and, admittedly, saw some interesting artifacts, like "a folio of Shakespeare’s plays that sold for one English pound in 1632." No doubt the people he met there were equally interesting, authors of such works as “The American Book in the Industrial Era, 1820-1940," and professors of classes like “Introduction to Western Codicology" and “The Printed Book in the West to 1800."
“You know the phrase, ‘So-and-so wrote the book on X?’” doctoral student Elizabeth Ott tells de Vise. “That’s often literally the case with Rare Book School professors.”
Can you feel the weight of this place? I'm practically wheezing from all the dust. I suppose someone has to gather and disseminate this arcane knowledge, but if you're hanging out in a basement, drinking wine and eating cheese, and complaining to a reporter that a Kindle doesn't let you "riffle the pages with my thumb as I’m reading," then maybe your cause is already lost?
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