spirituality - lesson 8: ex libris
ex-libris by austin osman spare (left 1908, right 1909)
books are perceived as a vehicle to knowledge, coupled with the fact that in pasttimes only a few people could read well, those in possession of books were seenas highly powerful individuals, with access to a level of reality that others didn't.monasteries and churches of every religion owned some of the biggest libraries,making them the primary sources of information and culture at the time.before the invention of the printing press the production of a single book was along and difficult endeavor. the skin of sheep, goat or calve would have to betreated, stretched and dried, then cut and formed into sheets. a book like thebible might have taken over 200 hides to create the pages. scribes, a special fewwho were able write, would painstakingly transcribe the books, with elaboratedetails, then on top of that there was the craftsmanship of binding of the book.this whole arduous process meant that quite obviously books were expensiveand libraries rare. even with the invention of paper in 750AD in china theaccumulation of books in a library was an expensive business .
'to steal this book closes the gates of heaven, and to destroy it opens the gates of hell. anyone who takes this book without permission will be punished by all the gods of japan.'
- an inscription on the book-seal of the daigoji temple, circa 1470.books are cherished and cared for. to academics and intellectuals books havealways been of huge importance, not only for the knowledge they provide butalso what theyr eflect about the owner. they are a source of pride and constantpleasure.there is something great about lending someone a book, sharing someknowledge, or simply entertainment with a friend, letting them participate in atreasured pleasure. but have you ever lent a book and never got it back? acommon and annoying occurrence even today, but perhaps with less urgencythan in the 14th century. as we have established, books were expensive and