Elbert, Your Hubbard is Bare
At the dawn of the 20th century, as “Fra (brother) Elbertus,” Roycroft arts and design community founder Elbert Hubbard published his fable The City of Tagaste, “where machine-made books were so cheap that they could be used to throw at the cat.” In the tale, photography had made the ancient engraver’s craft obsolete, and machines quickly and easily bound books in imitation leather. The crafts and skills that made a group like the Roycrofters, the American offshoot of William Morris’ Arts and Crafts Movement, necessary, had decayed and destructed. Eventually, the city died “because she sacrificed her brightest and best in the mad rush to gain wealth by making cheap things that catered to the whims, depraved taste, and foolish tendencies of the worst.” Our reliance on desktop publishing and publishing on demand is the reality that Hubbard, a writer, publisher and artist, dreaded.
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