Vicesimus Knox Did An Objective Book Review in 1786

I’m taking a class in Romantic concepts of technology this semester, and I read little thing by Vicesimus Knox about libraries and books and having a grand old time reading. Near the end of the piece he writes:

I confess I had been much more conversant in a college library than in a circulating one, and could not therefore but be astonished at the number of volumes which the students would devour. The Helluo Librorum, or Glutton of Books, was a character well known at the university, and mentioned by the ancients; but I believe that their idea of him is far exceeded by many a fair subscriber at the circulating library. I have known a lady read twenty volumes in a week during two or three months successively. To be sure they were not bulky tomes, such as those of which it was predicated that a great book was a great evil. The print in the pages of most of them, to speak in the mechanical style of mensuration, were three inches by one and a half., and the blank paper exceeded the printed in quantity by at least half on a moderate computation. [“Of Reading Novels and Trifling Books Without Discrimination”]

What I find wonderful here is that the “objective” ending of the paragraph, in which Knox gives the measurements of the books the woman read, is really about the affective capabilities of the book. Because of its objective status in the world as an object of x any y dimensions, it immediately has a different symbolic weight.

Objective Game Reviews needs to take on this model. Don’t just describe the object; assert that it is either good or bad because of the size, shape, and amount of time you’re intended to spend with it.

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One Response to Vicesimus Knox Did An Objective Book Review in 1786

  1. fred says:

    fantastic post, cameron. seems to me that the last bit also emphasizes the textual absence (or emptiness) of the physical book–and how that modulates (or doesn’t!) the book’s affective potential. thanks for sharing.

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