Between Folds / Encyclopaedia Britannica

Encyclopaedia Britannica – 3rd edition; 1797.
158 x 202 cm
2010

As ‘A’ begins the alphabet, so does it begin the encyclopaedia, our documentation and ordering of the world; here, only in its third edition. Gathering by letter, each book of an encyclopaedia groups seemingly random things together – encouraging discovery that is free of any regiment of subject or specialism. A is for anatomy, agrimonia (a genus of flowering plants), ague (a shivering illness), the places Anatolia and Agria and the Anglo-Saxon Latin poet Aldhelm. Not only are we the explorers of ‘a’ here, but of the documentation of the past – of ‘a’ in 1797’s knowledge and language. These are not just forgotten pages, but words lost in time, with mixt tafte and maffive walls – ‘f’ used instead of ‘s’. Traces of inquisitive generations surround the text, in each thumbed edge, stain and even the hand-inked notes of a previous owner. With over 300 years between the binding of its pages and our present day, this book becomes an untold story of survival itself; fact has become history and it is the last, no longer the first, having lost its concluding companions.

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