What makes a book a book?

Those objects range from a clay tablet made in the 3rd century BCE to a modern audiobook. But is one of these books? It’s up to you to decide. The exhibition poses a series of questions: “Does a book need to have pages? Does the book need a text?” Each decision sends visitors on a different path, an idea introduced by exhibition designer Chelsea Kaufman.

“It’s easy to say, ‘I don’t know’ to these meta questions,” Kaufman said. But this possible approach breaks down big questions into manageable chunks. No matter which way you go, you will find an example to prove and disprove your choice.”

Guests will also be able to present their ideas in an essay competition. Participants present a 100-word essay answering the question “What is a book?” you will win an award from Special Collections. The best entry will have a chance to become a daycare worker.

As shown, the following Q&A with Frengel reveals that there are no easy answers when it comes to genre books. This interview has been edited and condensed.

What does an unusual bookkeeper do?

The tasks of my work are to build collections with gifts and purchases. I always try to think, ‘What have we used in history? What are we missing examples of?’ I really want to help connect students, researchers and faculty with the material in our collections; that is very important to me.

I think my purpose in being here is to keep thinking about how the visuals and the way of speaking shape the message. The text within the subject may appear to be an immutable and irrefutable idea. However, articles are often modified by their packaging.

Do you have a property that you are proud of?

On display is a 13th-century manuscript Bible, which is significant because 13th-century Bibles are all in one volume and organize the order of the books of the Bible. They were mostly copied in Paris but were distributed throughout Europe and became the Bible as we know it today. We had no model and in December we received a beautiful Vulgate Bible copied in Spain, which was purchased with the generous gift of two previous students.

So, what is a book?

A book is a very popular thing in our culture. You think, ‘I know a book when I see a book. I know what a book is.’ But now that you think about it, we have a facsimile on display. Is a facsimile of a book a book or is it only readable if it is the original? Can a book have more than one function? In the simplest sense, a book records and conveys information. But can it do other things? Can it fail to convey information? I think it can.

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