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Books by Color

January 10, 2011

One of our jobs here on Earth is to enjoy beauty. It’s not a demanding job, in the sense that one doesn’t have to go looking for it but rather one accepts it when it shows up.

There’s a rock in the river where, in late Fall and I imagine again in early Spring, ice floating down stream pauses in the circling eddy and, like river stones, gets rounded. Lovely lily pads of white ice go round and round.

You may recall some years ago around this time of year we re-arranged the New Book shelves by color, enthused as we were with the New Year and a similar project at the Adobe Bookshop in San Francisco.

Some people enjoyed it. Some people didn’t notice at all, even when selecting books from those shelves, a kind of deep browsing with no design other than paying attention to each book one by one.

“Books by color” comes up again because of an accidental mention by a friend that when he had a big warehouse of books in Virginia, to support his science bookstore in D.C., his books were largely sorted by color.

It was accidental, since he was sorting them by publisher, which meant “there were bookcases of big bands of solid colors. Oxford, Cambridge (blues), North Holland (red), Elsevier (yellow, except for logic/math), Academic Press (greens and reds for their various math series), Plenum (blue), and so on. People who knew those books and saw, say, four bookcases of OxCam loved the sight of it.”

He had almost a mile of shelving. For a while, he imposed additional chronological order, but it was too much work. It was a great help, as the Dewey Decimal system is in a library, but he was a one-man operation.

Notice the “was.” Sometime early in the new millenium, in a matter of a couple of years, he saw the big flip from 80% of his sales being in-store to 80% being online. He moved on, sold his unique stock to Powell’s technical book section.

The job of enjoying beauty is not limited merely to accepting it, of course. One can make it, as we did with books by color, a sort of primitive imitation of a rainbow, or as artists of a more sophisticated kind do in their work.

Such as Sibyl Teague and Leah Cerise have done in their works on display at the library. Our current show is a fine collection of prints by Sibyl and Leah.

I know quite a few printmakers, now. There must be something viscerally appealing in the process. The textures are marvelous to look at, but I think there must be something especially satisfying in the conception and execution.

Leah has won awards in drawing, watercolor, jewelry, printmaking, and sculpture, and Sibyl received her BFA in painting from University of Michigan. And as with other artists I know, they are now drawn to printmaking.

Perhaps it makes use of all their skills. You can find out at a future demonstration at the library. We will visit their show in more detail beforehand, so I’ll remind you then, but mark your calendars for Sunday, January 30, at 3:00 p.m.

There will even be time for some hands-on play afterwards.

And now, an important tax notice: Many of you have wanted to get your hands on federal tax forms, to no avail. They were delayed awaiting congressional action and only just now are trickling in. Forms 1040 and 1040A may not arrive until the end of January. Keep checking.

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