The photographer Abelardo Morell has a book out called A Book of Books, with a preface by Nicholson Baker (a hero of mine for his efforts to preserve old newspapers and his denunciation of libraries for destroying them and discarding other valuable old things); I hope to get a chance to leaf through it, based on the pictures accompanying this PBS interview with Paul Solman:

ABELARDO MORELL: In 1993 I was looking through a book of paintings by El Greco and flipping through the pages and this funny reflection came off the page. And I sort of said to myself as an artist, wouldn’t it be nice to make a picture of that effect. And I did it and it became really this beautiful photograph. And I thought okay, let’s do more.
PAUL SOLMAN: In the last decade, Morell has shot a vast variety of volumes: from the laughably large, Audubon’s Birds of America, to the stunningly small, a hymnal by Rudyard Kipling… from a blank book dappled in daylight, to the starry juxtaposition of “two books of astronomy”…from a peeping monk (by Raphael) to this autobiographical close-up of Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms….

PAUL SOLMAN: Morell found a different kind of discovery in this 1851 English volume, which taught young girls to sew a shirt, for example, by example.
ABELARDO MORELL: Every other page has a sample, a miniature sample of the thing that they were learning to sew or knit. So in the next page can be a little sock, a pair of pants, it’s wonderful.
PAUL SOLOMAN: Is that what art is about, finding surprises?
ABELARDO MORELL: Totally. I made several pictures of this book and this one where the arm becomes this narrow thin line, it felt kind of grotesque but I thought it spoke to the idea of this book being locked up in there for many years, as if it were a prisoner and maybe had lost an arm. I mean this is a kind of—I mean at least in my case—how imagination leads to making photographs.

And here’s another interview, with Robert Birnbaum:

I think a lot about language. The idea of how things are communicated and that’s one of my interests in books, the surface that communicates ideas and stories and all that. In some ways, I am trying to integrate the two. I even have a close-up of a page of A Tale Of Two Cities and A Farewell to Arms to try to get a visual equivalent of what it is to read or to have words be significant.

(Via wood s lot, where there are other Morell links.)
Addendum. Check out Alicia Martín‘s image of books pouring out of a window of the Palacio de Linares in Madrid (home of the Casa de América), literalizing the idea of “bursting with knowledge.” I’m not usually thrilled with conceptual art, but I like this a lot. (Via the Puerta del Sol Blog.)


  1. Bohumil Hrabal wrote the charming story, “Too Loud a Solitude,” of a trash compacter operator, Hanta, who endeavors to save fine books from destruction in a society which is racing to destroy them, mindlessly. I think it was a transparent parody of the Soviet and Nazi occupations of Czechoslovakia.
    Speaking of which, I heard on NPR that some community put on a dramatization of “Fahrenheit 451.”

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