At the start of the autumn semester of 2019 we had received the task to become friends with an old book. I was quite sceptical on how to archieve that and expected to be studying the whole text in the book by heart. Luckily however, the task wasn’t really on learning a text, but more about engaging with it, and the book it is written in. The book I was given was by the famous italian artist Leon Battista Alberti, called “De Pictura”.
In the first task we had been asked to collect some important facts and figures. Especially on where we would be able to find an old if not original version of the text, to later be able to experience the book and its containing text physically. I was able to have a look at my book at the Zentralbibliothek Zürich after having been to Stifung Bibliothek Werner Oechslin, where I was able to learn how to treat such old books, how to understand their layout and so on. So when I got into the reading room of the ZB, I already knew on how to handle to book, and yet I was quite nervous to be handeling an old book on my own. I didn’t expect that from me.
It was in the library when I got rather confused, as I was able to identify more than just “my” text in this book and started to wonder about, wheter this was a correct edition, realized how over all these years, these important texts can get modified, added to other collections, commented, graphics added or removed and so on. Which apparently was also the topic of the next task we had to approach.
Luckily we had received some very valuable links to sites on where to find useful information on various editions of our texts. It was in this exercice especially that online research can be very complicated and that sometimes, direct contact with the book itself, someone who has extensive knowledge on old texts or people such as librarians can be much more valuable sources of information, as I was so to say, completely lost in all the information there was, and was also quite confused about which information was relevant, where I could get more in depht about it and which source now is “correcter” as some of them even, or at least seemed to me, contradicted others.
Following this task we translated the text and used some program to visualize the text in various forms and were able to compare our texts in the last task.
We were grouped together in a team of 5 people to compare these text in interesting ways and discussed its content. At the end we merged these results in a so called library in which these similiarities and differences where visible.
All in all it was a eye-opening time with my book, although sometimes quite nerve-stretching in the researching parts of the task where I more often than not was completely confused, although I always got a result out of them. The best time I probably had when we were able to go to the libraries and actually touch the books and interact with them, but also the program usage for visualization at the end of this year with the book.