Libraries are changing. Books are changing. There might be a crisis in libraries and books. Are they disappearing? Does it matter?
I was browsing through old copies of TLS and read a review (by Roderick Conway Morris) of a book ‘Venetian Navigators’ by Andrea di Robilant. The book’s about fourteenth century explorations of the far far northern regions of the planet. The reviewer suggests that as the Arctic ice-cap melts and North-West and North-East Passages open up to navigation, the areas explored by the Zen brothers in the fourteenth century will become central to world trade.
A section of the review caught my imagination, reminding me of the role and relevance of both books and libraries. It’s a lovely story about what can happen in a library when you are looking for one thing and your stumble upon something else.
QUOTE from TLS, June 3, 2011.
“Several years ago di Robilant, while researching an altogether different topic, happened upon a miniature volume in the Old and Rare Book Collection at the Marciana Library on Piazza San Marco in Venice. It measured about six by four inches, and glued to the back of it was a larger, crisply engraved wood-cut map. The author was the Venetian nobleman Nicolo Zen, and the title ‘On the Discovery of the Islands of Frislanda, Eslanda, Engroneland, Estotiland and Icaria made by the two Zen Brothers under the Artic Pole.’ The book was published in 1558.”
The accidental discovery of the little old book led to the writing of the book under review. I love stories like that. And I hope libraries and books don’t disappear.