The presence of books

Last week I was in an inner-city cafe, gathering my thoughts before an important meeting. Without thinking, I did what I always do to calm down. I quietly began studying everyone and everything else around me.

There were the guys behind the counter; the people lining up for coffee; local office-workers at other tables, having meetings over laptops; two young men hovering around out the front, smoking quick ciggies; the hints of traffic movement and light in the busy street outside.

Mio Mia cafe, in Ultimo, Sydney (from the cafe's Facebook page)
Mio Mia café in a quieter moment, Ultimo, Sydney (from the cafe’s Facebook page)

It was a small, noisy place. My eyes lingered on the delicious food on display. But what really stood out was the wall beside me.

It’d been completely covered with wallpaper depicting trompe-l’oeil shelves filled with old-style hard-back books, from floor to high ceiling. Continue reading

Escape into online treasures #1

Without a doubt, among the great wonders of digitisation are the treasures it’s opened to the world.

In December last year, the Vatican Library and Oxford University’s Bodleian Library launched a project to make freely available online ancient texts from their incredible collections.

Both institutions have been digitising their collections prior to this. But the present project allows them to increase digital access on a much larger scale.

The Bodleian trove disseminated online last month includes no less than its Gutenberg Bible (1455).

The project’s been supported by a ₤2 million award from the Polonsky Foundation. You can read more about the foundation here, and about one of the trustees driving the project, Dr Leonard Polonsky and the foundation’s reasons for supporting the project. Continue reading