Who among you have asked “what is reading for?” The answer seems pretty obvious, right? Reading is for . . . hmmmmm. Well, posited as a philosophical riddle, I’m not exactly certain what is the correct answer. Are you?
Robert Bringhurst offers some thoughts. The most elegant and accessible writer on type, typography, readability and legibility, was commissioned to present a talk for a symposium called “The Future of Reading” held at R.I.T. in June 2010. Over a year later this text, “What is Reading For?” has been published as a limited edition (450 copies) booklet, printed letterpress from digital type. So light to the touch and appealing to the eye is this bound transcription, that one cannot help but want to hold, caress and turn its Mohawk Ticonderoga pages. So exquisite is Bringhurst’s prose that you are compelled to read from beginning to end in one sitting.
Here’s a snippet from the beginning:
There is nothing finer than reality, so far as I’m concerned, and yet there seems to be no life unless reality is coupled with imagination, and attention to reality is coupled to imagination. You give people some simple, abstract marks, which represent some speakable sounds, which represent in turn some thinkable meanings, and they supply the pictures for themselves. Still, reality underlies imagination, an attention to reality trues and tunes imagination. That’s how listening works, and listening is the foundation on which reading and writing is based.
Without any images, Bringhurst captures that imagination with rationalization. He says, “I’m merely going to talk, and even where pictures might be helpful, they’ll just have to form for themselves in your mind.” Now that takes guts. A picture-free talk for picture-oriented people.
Order a copy of this festschrift from the RIT Cary Graphic Arts Press (here) and you will see, hear or just plain read what I’m (I mean he’s) talking about. I guess that is what reading is for.