From the introduction:
I remembered from my childhood the children's picture books where three horizontal leaves could be turned independently of one another to create animals with different heads, stomachs and legs. Merging that idea with the exciting books we were privileged enough see and touch in Stephen Orgel's "History of the Book" class, I thought it would be an intriguing project to create a literary version of this childhood classic. Instead of creating new creatures by mixing up body parts, one could create new stories by mixing up beginnings middles and ends of famous classics.
I designated the left-hand column as the generally "adventure" or "heroic" themed column, the center as "romance" and the right as "death or dying." I though the passage from left to right and the combination of all three themes was typical of medieval epics. Every bestseller needs a little adventure, a pinch of romance and a hint of danger, no?
From that point, I created a list of authors that I felt exemplified these themes. The list of authors, as you can investigate in more detail in the following bibliography, include Plato, Machiavelli, Jane Austen, Shakespeare and Camus, among others. I purposely chose authors with which I was familiar. I intended this project not only to be the culmination of what I had learned in the "History of the Book" class, but an investigation of the classic books that have shaped my intellectual growth. Also, for practical reasons, it would be difficult to find appropriate passages in works with which I was unfamiliar. I also made the executive decision to limit my passage selections to one per author.
After photographing the selections from the actual pages in the books, so as to preserve the changes in typography and spelling, I pasted the selections into their appropriate places. I added the borders later when it was unclear whether the reader should read vertically or horizontally. The borders, I believe, help direct the reader's eyes up and down the page rather than from side to side.
The selections span the centuries: from the Geneva Bible of 1560 to my personal desk copy of Herbert Mason's translation of Gilgamesh. Through this wide span of literature and time periods, I hope to illustrate that great literature, though perhaps most aesthetically beautiful in its aged form, is as relevant today as it was four hundred years ago.
There are some treats within these pages: the original, edited galleys of T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland with edits by Ezra Pound, the galleys of The Great Gatsby and the oldest tale of Robin Hood (at least according to EEBO) printed by Wynkyn de Worde and the first American Edition of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness.
Flip the page flaps as you will and read down to find as many combinations as possible. There are seven hundred and nine possibilities.
The Short and the Long of It
laser print, archival paper, glue
Many, many thanks to John Mustain for his invaluable help in Special Collections with book gathering, shared enthusiasm and speedy assistance and to Peter Whidden for his most excellent photography help on short notice.