The back page of my copy of Emerson’s Journals, 1841-1877, has a few words printed on it, a kind of poem (it is actually centered, but I can’t seem to add the html code here):
This book is set in 10 point Linotron Galliard,
a face designed for photo composition by Matthew Carter
and based on the sixteenth-century face Granjon. The paper
is acid-free lightweight opaque and meets the requirements
for permanence of the American National Standards Institute.
The binding material is Brillianta, a woven rayon cloth made
by Van Heek-Scholco Textielfabricken, Holland. Compo-
sition by Dedicated Business Services. Printing by
Malley Incorporated. Binding by Dekker Book-
binding. Designed by Bruce Campbell.
The paper is not really “opaque.” It’s slightly translucent, but not in a way that distracts from your reading. A narrow forest green satin ribbon is attached to the inside binding, to use as a bookmark. Its color matches the cloth cover. The book smells slightly of ink.
I’m fixated on this for the moment, while remembering that when I was in high school I made myself a book. It had some graphics and some text. I can’t remember if I sewed it together, or if I stapled it. But I do remember that the process made me incredibly and inexplicably happy. And it wasn’t really so much about having a book, or having made a “permanent” thing (now long lost), but rather it was the process.
Newspapers, on the other hand, are not made for permanence, and no one seems to care much about the process. They are (were?) meant to be read and thrown away. This I know well, after unfolding a copy of the Philippine Advocate (published in Seattle), c.1934 and watching the brown pages crumple to pieces on the copier glass.
Still, a text can go through many different, and perhaps unexpected lives. From a 1934 issue of the Philippine Advocate, I posted a brief excerpt of a poem (by a poet few people have heard of) on Facebook, and queried if anyone would be interested in trying their hand at translating. Someone probably donated the newspaper to the university library, and a librarian, probably many years ago, put the newspaper on microfilm. And one day I ran it through the machine, and made a copy. Who knows what happened to the original. So far I’ve had about half a dozen responses; they included two cousins, and some friends—several of whom are poets.