Editor's Notes
[ previous ] [ next ] [ #11: winter 2007 ]


As Lorraine Piroux notes in her essay “The Encyclopedist and the Peruvian Princess,” print technologies emerging between 1660 and 1780 rendered smaller and smaller books, including the “sextodecimo,” in which each sheet of the printer's paper is folded sixteen times. In addition, technologies such as standardized type and the inventions of the dash and indentation gave rise to an increasing uniformity and legibility of texts.


The idea of the “legible text” assumes the cultural value of transparency, which allows a one-to-one correspondence between the reader and the “meaning” behind the words. Likewise, “legibility” assumes the cultural value of a direct and unfettered access to knowledge, which, in the Enlightenment project, is presumed to be necessary for both rational discourse and the delineation of universal ethics.


> inclement ridges furrow the plain, their waters floating underneath calm
> its remote particular
> Whose signature spread from peaks to plane
> ripe with sun, rice

Neither the legible nor the illegible text mimics the world. But the enigmas that are not suppressed by legibility return the visual to the visceral, a way of looking back, at, and of, rather than through. For instance, the Mayan Codices consist of large sheets of deerskin or fig paper folded like a screen. Each fold is divided into grids of interrelated glyphs, astrological charts, and color-coded illustrations. The earliest instances of writing are indistinguishable from painting and mathematics.


> The second X made Y, an airy tent
> the room decreased inside me
> as in puzzle: DNA: pixels in auto-red
> The occasional comma of a person