Friday, August 24, 2012

The Mating Habits of Unicorns

In 1671, publisher and writer John Ogilby created a compendium of all relevant information about the New World. In true 17th-century form, the title boasts of the book's expansive mission: America: Being the Latest, and Most Accurate Description of the New World; Containing the Original of the Inhabitants, and the Remarkable Voyages thither, the Conquest of the Vast Empires of Mexico and Peru, and other Large Provinces and Territories, with Several European Plantations in those Parts. Also Their Cities, Fortresses, Towns, Temples, Mountains, and Rivers. Their Habits, Customs, Manners, and Religions. Their Plants, Beasts, Birds, and Serpents. With an Appendix containing, besides several other considerable Additions, a brief Survey of what hath been discovered of the Unknown South-Land and the Arctick Region (London, 1671). Ogilby never traveled to the New World, so the book is based on travel accounts he had read ("Collected from most Authentick Authors").

The book is full of awesome weirdness. You can just picture Ogilby in London trying to sort out the various accounts to determine what was real, what was not, and what might help sell books. One account he found compelling enough to reproduce as fact, and even illustrate, was a description of a "strange beast" living on the borders of Canada. It "hath some resemblance with a Horse, having cloven feet, shaggy Mayn, one Horn just on their forehead, a tail like that of a wild Hog, black Eyes, and a Deers Neck." Observers not only saw this mythical beast, they were able to note its strange habits:
...it feeds in the nearest Wildernesses: the Males never come amongst the Females except at the time when they Couple, after which they grow so ravenous, that they not only devour other Beasts, but also one another.
Come see for yourself by asking for McGregor 129 (the unicorn is on page 173).

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Oooh... Salty

If you didn't make it to the beach this summer, we have the book for you. Maggie Puckett's Salty reeks of the ocean even though it was printed in Chicago. For the most part, it is an artist's book of blank pages, but they are imbued with meaning... and salt.  It was an experiment as part of the artist's work at Columbia College's Center for Book and Paper Arts.

The artist's statement tells readers that "To experience Salty you must lick it." it goes on to explain:
The salty taste of the paper, embedded with extra coarse sea salt and produced in salty water, is meant to mimic the experience of tasting seawater.

Salty was created out of a desire to experiment with paper made in seawater. The salt may affect the paper's archival qualities, but suggests an alternative source of water for papermaking studios located in drought-stricken but coastal area.

The book is bound using dried squid tentacles. We gave it a lick to see what the experience would be. It was not pleasant. To be true to the book's purpose we will allow visitors to take a taste if they dare. Salt is a powerful preservative, so we think the salt in the paper will wipe out most germs, but it is taste at your own risk.

Close up of the paper
We are in the process of cataloging the book, but the record will eventually be located here. Once it is ready, come in and give it a taste, or just hold it up and smell the sea.