Me, A Book

In this E-Book era, it might be useful to hear from a real book. The Autobiography of a Book by Charles H. Denhard (representing the book) was designed by Ernst Reichl (designer of the first Ulysses jacket) with text composed by The Composing Room. It records the trials and tribulations of a book in the 1940s and how difficult it was, even then, to succeed as paper between covers. Here’s a snippet:

I remember the conversation between my author and the publisher. The plain truth is that the first publisher didn’t even care to read me. My author explained in elaborate detail what he had tried to do, how long he had worked over me, why he thought readers might be interested But to no avail. Publisher No. 1 was kindly, courteous and considerate, but it was obvious that he had not interest in me and was willing to forego whatever advantages might accrue to his house by making a book of me.

The story continues through the process of finding an agent, getting sold to a publisher, being edited and ultimately printed. Here’s another short excerpt:

Thus my author and I were separated – for the first time. I was tossed upon a pile of manuscripts, wondering what kind of inquisition threatened. I could scarcely feel lonely for I was surrounded by books of all kinds, on all subjects, by hundreds of writers. And, after all, wasn’t I destined to become a book?

Below are a few in situ passages. The book has a curious poignancy. Ahh, to be a book was not easy:

I discovered I was only one insignificant item in a list of sixty new books, all scheduled for Spring publication. Each of the sixty required the individual handling which I was to receive. Not alone setting type and proofreading, designing and printing and binding, but equally important business of selling and promotion had to be considered.

(Don’t miss yesterday’s Nightly Heller for “The Clock” – a film in 24 hour real time.)

Inside "The Autobiography of a Book" Text from "The Autobiography of a Book" Text from "The Autobiography of a Book"Text from "The Autobiography of a Book"

5 thoughts on “Me, A Book

  1. Faith Middleton, WNPR

        the autobiography of a book is spectacular. Thank you for finding it, Steve. Though not nearly as spectacular as The Daily Heller.
    Faith Middleton, WNPR

  2. Susan

    Were we separated at birth? My father’s (and now my) library included this and many of the other books you’ve mentioned recently (including the 3rd COLOPHON, which has lovely cover and colophon page designed by Gustav Jensen). Your readers might also enjoy THE STRUCTURE OF A BOOK, a 1945 reprint of an essay originally written by WADwiggins for the AIGA in 1927. It, too, has a curious poignancy, and is described on the colophon page as a “…veritable ‘time capsule’… the sober dicta of a great designer who excels in products of charming personal caprice.” Still relevant, I’d be glad to make a PDF for anyone who’s interested.

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