Saturday, July 2, 2016

Of Dreams, Innovations and Memories

My output: The Book of Z
Early this summer, I decided to do something that would allow me to recollect and to go back to basics. Initially, I wanted to take writing classes, but due to personal limitations, as I am still recovering from my TIA, I opted to take the History of Publishing and the Book at UP Diliman. It is a short course that is part of a series of publishing classes organized by the National Book Development Board (NBDB) and the Book Development Association of the Philippines (BDAP). The class was facilitated by Ramon Sunico.

For three meetings, I sat in lectures, participated in activities and wrapped my mind around historical events, influential people in world history and the concepts that these people conceived to change the way people think. From the ancient times to the middle ages, the Rennaisance and into the modern age of printing Mr. Sunico successfully presented the milestones that brought in book technology and publishing to what we know about it today.

A sample wood block, but it's rubber
In college, I took the required course on the history of the book and libraries. What I remember then was a narrative of dates and events that did not mean a thing to me. I think it was because, as a sophomore, my idea of the book and my world view was very limited. Now, with a little bit of experience, I am able to make meaning of this history to my work as a school librarian. For one, an understanding of book history and publishing provided me with a context to ground my professional practice. There is much talk about digital resources and ebook collection building. Seeing the book as a technology and how young digital resources are, I am more cautious in making decisions on what to select and acquire. There are lasting and overarching concepts that need to be considered. Building a library collection that is balanced requires careful thought because investing in technology can be extremely costly.

 I had fun doing the activities! I wrote using a straw quill which we made in class. I did potato prints and made books out of paper. Every meeting, Mr. Sunico brought in his tools of the trade: a litho stone, a composing stick, rare books that smell so good, a set of sieve and frames for making paper. The experience was like stepping back in time where the modern gadgets I enjoy tinkering with pales in comparison with the technology of long ago. Because, really, what are these gadgets we enjoy today, but upgrades of innovations and inventions of the past. I could not help but think about time as a concept. The past and the future mesh with the present making "the now" more relevant than what was and what is to come.

Wrote my name using a straw quill
On a personal level, I am bringing with me my fascination of Haroun Al-Rashid and Charlemagne. Haroun Al-Rashid is the caliph responsible for the collection of stories that littered the Silk Route. If not for him, I would not be enjoying the 1001 Nights and YS novels that are based on this classic. He also built libraries under his empire that housed scrolls, illuminated texts about the sensual and the secular. Proof that God and Man can indeed create beautiful things! Charlemagne, on the other hand, standardized language and writing, so that, everyone in his kingdom can understand his decrees and laws. These men knew what to do with language, knowledge and the power that it gave them to rule for years.

The different ways they put value on content, building libraries and setting standards inspire me to read more about their era, their accomplishments and its effect in society, past, present and future. To paraphrase a quote from Mr. Sunico's lecture, it is important to look at how people who make influential things think.

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