le livre muté en rite

Mallarmé, qui a pensé toute la seconde moitié de sa vie au Livre Total, a opéré, quant à la référence, un glissement : ce Livre Total devait être lu en séances publiques, avec des permutations de vers (et de places) ; la référence n’était donc pas le livre (immobile), mais le livre muté en rite, en théâtre (“Le Théâtre est d’essence supérieure”) ; donc l’Ur-livre, pour Mallarmé, n’est pas la Bible, mais, si l’on peut dire : la Messe.

Barthes, Roland. La préparation du roman, Notes de cours et de séminaires au Collège de France. Seuil, 2003. 244.

absolute whiteness

The most beautiful and perfect book in the world is a book with only blank pages, in the same way that the most complete language is that which lies beyond all that the words of a man can say. Every book of the new art is searching after that book of absolute whiteness, in the same way that every poem searches for silence.

Carrión, Ulises. “The New Art of Making Books,” Kontexts no. 6-7, 1975.

books are for use

Books are for use.
Every reader his [or her] book.
Every book its reader.
Save the time of the reader.
The library is a growing organism.

Ranganathan, S.R. The Five Laws of Library Science. Madras: The Madras Library Association, 1931.

a thousand years

Brothers, nobody should say or think: “What is the sense of bothering with copying by haand when the art of printing has brought to light so many important books; a huge library can be acquired inexpensively.” …

All of you know the difference between a manuscript and a printed book. The word written on parchment will last a thousand years. The printed word is on paper. How long will it last? The most you can expect a book of paper to survive is two hundred years. Yet, there are many who think they can entrust their works to paper. Only time will tell.

Yes, many books are now available in print, but no matter how many books will be printed, there will always be some left unprinted and worth copying. No one will ever be able to locate and buy all printed books. Even if all works ever written would appear in print, the devoted scribe should not relax in his zeal. On the contrary, he will guarantee the permanence to useful printed books by copying them. His labor will render mediocre books better, worthless ones more valuable, and perishable ones more lasting. …

…he must not cease copying just because the art of printing has been invented.

Johannes Trithemius, In Praise of Scribes (De Laude Scriptorum). Ed., Klaus Arnold. Trans., Roland Behrendt. Lawrence, KS: Coronado Press, 1974. 63.

calls the reader the operator

Mallarmé calls the reader the ‘operator.’ Reading, like poetry, is an ‘operation.’ The term retains for him, throughout, its dual connotation of work and of something almost surgical, derived ironically from its functional nature: operation as amputation, rather like the Hegelian ‘Aufhebung.’ Reading is an operation, a labour of self-suppression which is substantiated in a self-confrontation and simultaneously abolished and asserted. …Mallarmé emphasises the danger and daring of reading—daring apparently to claim authorial rights over the book….

Blanchot, Maurice. “The Book to Come.” A Book of the Book: Some Works & Projections About the Book & Writing. Jerome Rothenberg and Steven Clay, eds. New York: Granary Books, 2000. 156.

who appears to read them for his own pleasure

To afford the reader, however, an opportunity of noting at a glance the appropriate learned terms applicable to the different sets of persons who meddle with books, I subjoin the following definitions, as rendered in D’Israeli’s Curiosities, from the Chasse aux Bibliographes et Antiquaires mal advisés of Jean Joseph Rive: —

“A bibliognoste, from the Greek, is one knowing in title-pages and colophons, and in editions; the place and year when printed; the presses whence issued; and all the minutiæ of a book.”—”A bibliographe is a describer of books and other literary arrangements.”—”A bibliomane is an indiscriminate accumulator, who blunders faster than he buys, cock-brained and purse-heavy.”—”A bibliophile, the lover of boods, is the only one in the class who appears to read them for his own pleasure.”—”A bibliotaphe buries his books, by keeping them under lock, or framing them in glass cases.”

Burton, John Hill. The Book-Hunter etc. New York: R. Worthington, 1883. 4-5 (footnote).

which had influenced him

In addition to his own work, [d.a.] levy printed works by Charles Bukowski, Ed Sanders and others; he also produced small pirated editions of classic texts which had influenced him, including works by Rimbaud, Camus, W. Y. Evans-Wentz, Artaud, and others.


words are not speech

I ought to have embarked long ago on this stubborn quest for knowledge and self-knowledge. If I’d set about it in time, I might have achieved something. Instead of writing literature! What a waste of time; I thought I had all of life ahead of me. Now time is pressing, the end is near, and haste is not favourable to my quest; indeed, it’s because of literature that I can no longer understand anything at all. It’s as though by writing books I had worn out all symbols without getting to the heart of them. They no longer speak to me with living voices. Words have killed images or concealed them. A civilization based on words is a lost civilization. Words create confusion. Words are not speech.

Ionesco, Eugene, “Fragments of a Journal” in Barney Rosset, ed. Evergreen Review Reader: An anthology of short fiction, plays, poems, essays, cartoons, photographs, and graphics, 1967-1973. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 1998. 143.

the order of its catalogue

I am unpacking my library. Yes, I am. The books are not yet on the shelves, not yet touched by the mild boredom of order. I cannot march up and down their ranks to pass them in review before a friendly audience. You need not fear any of that. Instead, I must ask you to join me in the disorder of crates that have been wrenched open, the air saturated with the dust of wood, the floor covered with torn paper, to join me among piles of volumes that are seeing daylight again after two years of darkness, so that you may be ready to share with me a bit of the mood – it is certainly not an elegiac mood but, rather, one of anticipation – which these books arouse in a genuine collector. For such a man is speaking to you, and on closer scrutiny he proves to be speaking only about himself. Would it not be presumptuous of me if, in order to appear convincingly objective and down-to-earth, I enumerated for you the main sections or prize pieces of a library, if I presented you with their history or even their usefulness to a writer? I, for one, have in mind something less obscure, something more palpable than that; what I am really concerned with is giving you some insight into the relationship of a book collector to his possessions, into collecting rather than a collection. If I do this by elaborating on the various ways of acquiring books, this is something entirely arbitrary. This or any other procedure is merely a dam against the spring tide of memories which surges toward any collector as he contemplates his possessions. Every passion borders on the chaotic, but the collector’s passion borders on the chaos of memories. More than that: the chance, the fate, that suffuse the past before my eyes are conspicuously present in the accustomed confusion of these books. For what else is this collection but a disorder to which habit has accommodated itself to such an extent that it can appear as order? You have all heard of people whom the loss of their books has turned into invalids, or of those who in order to acquire them became criminals. These are the very areas in which any order is a balancing act of extreme precariousness. “The only exact knowledge there is,” said Anatole France, “is the knowledge of the date of publication and the format of books.” And indeed, if there is a counterpart to the confusion of a library, it is the order of its catalogue.

Benjamin, Walter. Selected writings: 1931 – 1934. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1999. 486-492.

to an intellectual expression

My ideal library would have contained all Roussel’s writings—Brisset, perhaps Lautréamont and Mallarmé. Mallarmé was a great figure. This is the direction in which art should turn: to an intellectual expression, rather than to an animal expression. I am sick of the expression “bête comme un peintre”—stupid as a painter.

Duchamp, Marcel. “The Great Trouble with Art in This Country” in
Sweeney, James Johnson, “Eleven Europeans in America: Marcel Duchamp,” Museum of Modern Art Bulletin no 13, 1946, p. 21.