Rare Book Monthly

Articles - April - 2009 Issue

Disappearing Ink: The Word Transformed

The.end

The end of an era


By Bruce McKinney

Newspapers, as extraordinary as they are and have been, are simply a way to deliver information. They perform an important task but are only aggregator and delivery mechanism. The same is true for radio and television. They deliver information. The same is true for libraries. They aggregate and deliver information on demand. So too encyclopedias aggregate and deliver information. We have a history of relying on methods, sometimes for generations, but our goal is efficiency, the means ultimately unimportant. We do form emotional attachments as ten of millions of us have with books and newspapers but our commitment is more a matter of personal preference than efficiency and logic. Hence our children, free of our history and habits, increasingly find their news on line and it is only a matter of time before the written word is freed of all printed constraints. Future generations' commitment will be to the information, not to its form. Already twenty-somethings find newspapers to be yesterday's news. No doubt their children will feel the same way about their approach. All forms of delivery and dissemination are means, not ends, all personal commitments to form simply habits.

Books are also under pressure. In future print runs will be shorter and options for reading text electronically greater. Kindle may or may not be the answer but there's no question that paper copies, while not yet endangered, are marked for extinction.

Two hundred years ago we relied upon horses for transportation but boats, then trains and eventually cars, buses and airplanes one by one increased our options, reduced our cost and increased our range and speed. Today, driving on a country road we may see a horse or two grazing. They were once, for many, the best option for transportation. Times change.

Steamboats had an effective life of about one hundred years. Railroads dominated the post Civil War era. The car, in barely a century, opened the world to broader development and now enters a second life, re-engineered for cost efficiency and reduced pollution. Cars will become smaller and perhaps communities more compact. We acclimate to change.

The internet has been with us now for almost twenty years and it too is changing. It was once essentially a mail system but has become much more. Today, as an octopus might, it encompasses aspects of what newspapers, radio and television do. It provides some of what libraries generally and encyclopedias specifically offer. It provides the maps we used to obtain at gas stations, dinner, hotel and entertainment reservations we used to make in person, by phone or fax. We now see movie schedules and reviews, and do both casual and serious research without leaving home. We'll soon take courses at major educational institutions; perhaps at the London School of Economics, the Sorbonne and myriad American universities to earn composite degrees that are matched to our needs and interests rather than to the theories and ideas of college administrators. In a few clicks these days we bring ourselves up to speed and along the way are redefined both by what we learn and what we learn how to learn.

The internet is also organizing us into ever more defined communities. In the electronic ether, we may be part of a group of insurance adjusters, poets, inner-city school teachers, even booksellers or book collectors. The internet permits us to interact with others sharing our interests and ideas. Our communities were once our churches, schools, villages and towns. Today they are potentially beyond number and are increasingly online.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>Edward Hopper & His Contemporaries:<br>Making a Modern American Art<br>June 30, 2022
    <b>Swann June 30:</b> Edward Hopper, <i>The Railroad,</i> etching, 1922. $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Swann June 30:</b> Edward Hopper, <i>Sheet of Studies with Men in Hats and a Saloon Keeper,</i> pen, ink & pencil, circa 1900-05. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann June 30:</b> Edward Hopper, <i>Night Shadows,</i> etching, 1921. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <center><b>Swann Auction Galleries<br>Edward Hopper & His Contemporaries:<br>Making a Modern American Art<br>June 30, 2022
    <b>Swann June 30:</b> John Marin, <i>Woolworth Building, No. 2,</i> etching & drypoint, 1913. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann June 30:</b> Charles Demuth, <i>Tulips,</i> watercolor & pencil, 1924. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Swann June 30:</b> Edward Hopper, <i>Under Control,</i> gouache, ink & wash, circa 1907-10. $30,000 to $50,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> JESSE JAMES. Autograph Letter Signed on the attack at his home which maimed his mother and killed his nephew Archie, 6 pp, March 23, 1875. THE MOST IMPORTANT JESSE JAMES LETTER EXTANT. $300,000 to $500,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> THE LETTER THAT ARRIVED TOO LATE: An important letter from Robert E. Lee to Ulysses S. Grant across the battlefield at Cold Harbor, June 6, 1864. $120,000 to $180,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> DAVY CROCKETT. Autograph Letter Signed on his political philosophy and his dispute with Andrew Jackson, "at home Weakley County," August 18, 1831. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> GEORGE WASHINGTON. Letter Signed to Colonel Richard Gridley, the first engineer of the American Army, Morris Town, January 9, 1777. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> SCOTT FITZGERALD. <i>Tender is the Night.</i> FIRST EDITION, INSCRIBED to H.A. Swanseid. $30,000 to $50,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS. <i>Tarzan of the Apes.</i> FIRST EDITION. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> J.R.R. TOLKIEN. <i>The Hobbit, or There and Back Again.</i> FIRST EDITION. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> NATHANAEL WEST. <i>The Day of the Locust.</i> PRESENTATION COPY, inscribed to director Richard Wallace in the year of publication. $6,000 to $8,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> FRANCIS PICABIA. Archive of 17 Autograph Letters signed to Jennie Thiersch on art and life, 1948-1951. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> JOHN HANCOCK. Autograph Letter Signed to his wife Dolly from the Continental Congress, 4 pp, Philadelphia, March 10-11, 1777. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 28:</b> NIGHTGOWN WORN BY CHARLOTTE CARDEZA DURING THE TITANIC DISASTER AND RESCUE. $40,000 to $60,000

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