Monday, May 21, 2007

Paper, or old paper?

This weekend, I had a great opportunity to take the 1555 edition of Vesalius' De humani corporis fabrica out of the safe and show it off. (Shown at left is the frontispiece from our copy.)

Viewers were amazed at the resiliency of the paper, now over 450 years old. I compared it with paper from a 1930s-era collection also on display, paper which had become acidic to the point of being "single-fold," brown and difficult to read. More than any other small fact I let drop all evening, that seemed to impress one listener above all else. I think I managed to convince him to always, henceforth, look for the small infinity symbol on the title page verso of books he buys, to remind himself that the choices we make today may maintain our information resources for centuries, or doom them to quick extinction.

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