Things Too Fine to Use

v9SYa8A4kvN6lL252Ih8xgI79VtPdaKEb8a3J10iBYfirSgGXLlUd4PaUu8RhumBxSCnmV3T-U1CU0hSe7Ue95HTNyC-yNNG-6fSNM8xorQd8KRZ0Fif94dmmKjHYHfq3hWMYpRlzQhSS0UqKmH-F-8uRYl9=s220-cYesterday I met a man who collects pens. I do too, but not with such panache. This man has a platinum Lamy and an ornate silver pen so heavy I could not write more than my name with it, and then not easily. He has pens embossed with gold and pens so high-priced that I had never heard of them, just plain out of my league. These are not pens that one stuffs in a purse with Kleenex and the grocery list. They live in glass cases, art objects.

There are books too fine to read. Like the pens too fine to use, these books are designed as art objects. Limited editions, custom paper, embossed covers, gilt titles, and fore-edge paintings. This last is fascinating: when the book is closed the leading edges of the text appear quite simple, maybe a hint of color showing. But gently fan the pages and a painting appears. Some of these books have two paintings hidden on the edges, one if you fan the pages forward and another if you fan them back to front. Gold gilt on the top of the pages is lovely, but has a practical purpose: dust! In a time before vacuums, dust slid off the gilding more easily than from plain paper edges.

A well written book is a beauty, but it’s artistry is perhaps not as readily apparent as with these artfully made books and pens, but here is one more place where writers and visual artists meet. We are not alone.

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