I have friends and acquaintances who love books, and so keep books. Perhaps it’s the mechanics or materialism: signatures or signatures. Perhaps it’s autobiography, like LPs or tattoos. Perhaps, like any artifact, it’s the desire to easily revisit them. They’ve given me some of their books, and when I’m done with them, I’ll give them back. They keep them on their bookshelves.
But, for me, the important parts of a book are inside me, after I’ve read it and taken it in. So, when I give you a book, I don’t want it back. It’s not a loan: it’s a gift; depending on the book, perhaps the gift of a passion, or of knowledge, or of understanding. The best thing that could happen is that you take that book, and you keep it — and me — in your heart.
And, so, I gave the Internet Archive thirteen books, both to keep and to share. The Internet Archive scans a thousand books a day and puts them online for the world to read. These were just another thirteen books to the Internet Archive, but perhaps you’ll find in them what I found in them. Perhaps they’ll become important to you. Perhaps you’ll help them become important to someone else.
Glimpses of the World, John L. Stoddard, 1892
A hundred and twenty years ago, John L. Stoddard published this photographic travelogue, before “travelogue” was even a word. Two hundred and sixty photographs illustrated places most of the U.S. would never see, in a way that was only recently possible. Dry plate photography had been invented in Stoddard’s lifetime, and George Eastman had invented photographic film less than ten years before. I discovered it through a tattered copy with an almost illegible cover on a desk at the Thinktiv offices in Austin, TX. Later, a friend remarked on her desire to see the world; this book was a gift to her, and a second copy was a gift to the Internet Archive, which has now gifted it to the world.
The Art & Practice of Typography, Edmund G. Gress, 1910
A hundred and two years ago, Edmund G. Gress, a printer, writer, editor, and typographic authority of his time, put together a book which taught basic page layout, typography and design, and showcased the best print work of his day. Samples of every piece of work are protected by vellum sheets bound into the volume, and each sample is printed on different, appropriate paper. It is a beautiful book to look through, and made all the more valuable because the lessons on design are still the rules we follow today. This is original, traditional knowledge, and it can be yours, now, for the low, low price of absolutely free.
The Manual of Linotype Typography, Mergenthaler Linotype Company, 1923
In 1886, printing was changed forever with the advent of the Linotype machine. While a letterpress machine could not print more than an eight page newspaper in a reasonable amount of time, the Linotype machine allowed for assembling pages faster than ever before. The Mergenthaler Linotype Company distributed this large tome, similar to Gress’, teaching basic design principles and serving as a sample book for the Linotype’s font and graphic options. This is part of printing history: after you watch Linotype: The Film, you can read the book that taught the printers how to design.
Plotto, William Wallace Cook, 1928
In 1910, William Wallace Cook was one of the most prolific fiction writers, publishing over a book a week for the entire year. He had a method for writing, and at the end of his career, he wrote down his secrets and published them in a book titled Plotto. It was recently republished and original editions are increasingly hard to find. The Internet Archive has my first edition of his secrets now, and presents them to you.
Jan V. White
That same year, a future art director of Time-Life magazines was born. Jan V. White eventually wrote a dozen books on design out of his experience designing hundreds of magazines, tabloids, newsletters, books, manuals and other information literature.
I discovered Jan’s work in 2005, and over the next several years I imagined taking his principles and applying them to the web, to ebooks, and to whatever would come next. Like these other books, his work is timeless.
@nickdpi I secretly dream of getting in touch with Jan V. White and helping rewrite his print design books for interaction designers.— Vitorio (@vitor_io) September 30, 2010
Eventually, I had a ten-year old email address on a reprint of a twenty-year old article, and I reached out to him in April 2012.
In September 2012, Jan V. White deeded eight of his design books to the public domain.
In addition, Xerox Corporation, which had published many of his books, and had also had Jan work on their corporate style guide, the Xerox Publishing Standards, granted permission for the Internet Archive to preserve it and make the digitized version available for download.
Jan V. White donated seven books from his personal collection, and I provided the rest, and funded the Internet Archive’s digitization.
In November 2012, the Internet Archive has published their scans of these nine works. Jan V. White’s eight classic books are free to be redistributed, rewritten or remixed. The Xerox Publishing Standards, out of print for 25 years, is once again available for designers to reference.
Eventually, the Future will not remember that I helped preserve these books, nor will it remember me. A favorite writer described it so:
…the reward is: I did a thing, and I doubt I’ll ever do anything like it again. One, two, three: I will never get enough praise; of course I failed; and what I did was not particularly important. The best thing to hope for is that in time and with much more effort the work will become transparent to its users, that it will be taken for granted.
But, a friend might have found passion, or knowledge, or understanding in these or other books I’ve shared, and later gifted the same to others. Perhaps they found what I found, and it became important to them. Perhaps they helped it become important to someone else. Perhaps that is another way of living on, of being remembered. Another favorite writer put it thus:
Thank you, Teobaldo
You are my greatest friend
This has been the key to everything
I’m Vitorio, it’s December 6, 2012, thanks for reading. (Updated December 18, 2012 with newly public links to the Manual of Linotype Typography and Plotto, as they were library-only prior to that. Updated May 24, 2017 to rewrite the closing paragraph.)