Paper, Leather, Clay, & Stone: The Written Word Materialized Event Online Exhibit uri icon


  • Although the subject is words, we have avoided textual content in favor of physical context. In presenting written texts that differ from the familiar, we intend to show that, far from being a uniform box of rows and columns, the written word has been recorded historically in a variety of shapes, sizes, and materials. Books were embellished, handsomely illustrated, jealously guarded, and moralistically expurgated. When the contents were too charged, impious, or explicit, the book might even be destroyed—ample indication of how content depends upon the physical vehicle for survival. With the printing press and mass production, formats became more standardized, losing in the process some of their former whimsy and splendor. But the question of how a text is "packaged" is once again an issue, as computers change our assumptions about the permanence, ownership, and privacy of words.