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The Vertical Book

Since The Editors are travelling and the minions will play, we thought we’d lean on our single author to fill the gap in coverage. Dwarf Planet is not very densely populated. Herewith, therefore, by way of introducing “The Physical Book,” as a thematic, we will reproduce, with permission, a post from Ghulf Genes that appeared last summer:

One of the disconcerting aspects of blogs is that the last page written is always first, the first one last—almost suggesting that we’ve reached the end times (Matthew 20:16). A lifetime of turning pages, cumulating those read on the left, has left me with an instinctive horizontal orientation and, furthermore, left to right. I own a Koran that’s printed right to left, and consulting its index, “in the front” from my perspective, gives me the same strange sense of disorientation that blogs do. If blogs develop themes, as mine sometimes do, you have to dig downward to find the root.

This approach is genuinely new. As I just learned from the University of Michigan’s website titled Papyrus Collection, from whence also the following illustrations, even in the days of scrolls, left to right was common in the classical era in Europe (Graeco-Roman times). The papyrus roll lay on your table, and you scrolled rather than turned its single page, gathering the already-read in your left hand while revealing the new with your right.

A vertical scroll became more fashionable in the Byzantine era (fourth to seventh centuries of our time), after the center of the Roman empire shifted to what we now call Istanbul. But this scroll, while you read it downward, still has the first “page,” as it were, on top, the last at the bottom.

Our habits tug and worry us like our bodies as they age. I wish I could have a blog where the newest entry is the last—and if you want to see the past you have to hit PageUp—and better yet, PageLeft—but we’d have to get new keyboards for that, so what’s the chance of satisfaction? Low to none. Easier to let people form new habits. Old is down and new is up, up, up, and up.

— Arsen Darnay


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