Thursday, September 2, 2010

Thursday Thoughts...

...the papered memorial of mankind
Arthur Schopenhauer

I was re-reading an article by Geordie Williamson (chief literary critic of Australian Literary Review) today and this phrase caught my eye and my imagination. Despite trawling through quotes from Arthur Schopenhauer, I haven't been able to confirm his exact words, but I feel as if he MUST have been talking about books!

The article no longer exists online (it was published 1 July 2009) so I can't link you to it, but it explored the rise of the e-reader and talked about the value of books across time. I might talk more about that another day; but for now these 5 words, placed together so beautifully and evocatively have me in their spell.

What a magnificent way to describe books and the role they play. The stories told in the totality of books pay tribute to people across the centuries; describe our ways of being and thinking; and record our achievements and advancements. They stand fast in acknowledgement of the good we have done and the bad. They celebrate our differences and our similarities.

The conjured image of 'a papered memorial ' rising to the sky, pages laid upon pages, some edges fluttering in the breeze, others anchoring them...

I have no photo to do justice to this idea...the Long Room in the Trinity College Dublin is its own 'papered memorial to mankind'. Photo courtesy of  The Photographic Centre, Trinity College Dublin


  1. ok hun - here's an extension of the Schopenhauer quote....

    “Of human knowledge as a whole and in every branch of it, by far the largest part exists nowhere but on paper,— I mean, in books, that paper memory of mankind ... Every generation attains, on its hasty passage through existence, just so much of human knowledge as it needs, and then soon disappears. Most men of learning are very superficial. Then follows a new generation, full of hope, but ignorant, and with everything to learn from the beginning. It seizes, in its turn, just so much as it can grasp or find useful on its brief journey and then too goes its way. How badly it would fare with human knowledge if it were not for the art of writing and printing! This it is that makes libraries the only sure and lasting memory of the human race, for its individual members have all of them but a very limited and imperfect one. Hence most men of learning as are loth to have their knowledge examined as merchants to lay bare their books.
    Human knowledge extends on all sides farther than the eye can reach; and of that which would be generally worth knowing, no one man can possess even the thousandth part...”

    here's a link to a bigger bit of it....(

    interesting guy this schopenhauer..... ( I liked the connections to buddhism and that he advocated compassion to animals.... gotta like a guy who likes animals....

  2. Oh Ronnie - thank you so much for adding to my knowledge and understanding. It was utterly frustrating to have not been able to follow up properly - like I had a caught a glimpse out of the corner of my eye...I shall now pursue with glee!

  3. When I read the excerpt from the Winterson book, my first thoughts were of places like Trinity College.
    Thousands of years hence, will someone like Schopenhauer be extolling the virtues of Kindle?

  4. Doubt it Di, but then just saying that shows my prejudices. Lovely post, Fiona, and such a beautiful photograph. Good to read more, thanks Ronnie, and I will definitely follow up the link.

    I have friends who love their Kindles, so what do I know. Except that I just LOVE paper, and the written and printed word on paper has such an aura. Still, I had never imagined that I'd ever use a computer, let alone becoming addicted as I am, so there you go. Maybe when I'm 80 I'll have an implant in my head so that I can read in the dark.

    Thanks for the great ideas, Fiona.

  5. no one will ever build a place like this for kindles or even ipads. fiona, do you know gary frost's future of the book blog? check it out--

  6. Hi Velma - no I hadn't come across it; it looks fascinating and lots of beautiful writing. Thanks for sharing

    Carol - I love the idea of an implant so that we can read in the dark!


I appreciate your thoughts and comments; thanks for taking the time.