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January 12, 2014 6:29 PM   Subscribe


 
Pardon, meant to include this link as well: Elaine Treharne's blog describing her reaction. Linked in the original story but I wanted to highlight it as well.
posted by PussKillian at 6:33 PM on January 12


And I'm going to puke. Oh god.

The historian and book lover in my has just been made so angry they are chanting for blood.
posted by strixus at 6:37 PM on January 12 [4 favorites]


Seriously? High resolution scanners are a thing. Take a fucking picture, you barbarians.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:42 PM on January 12 [10 favorites]


What the fuck is wrong with people?
posted by dg at 6:55 PM on January 12 [2 favorites]


On a happier note, check out her Beowulf in 100 tweets.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:55 PM on January 12 [1 favorite]


Um, don't answer that - I don't have that much time.
posted by dg at 6:55 PM on January 12 [3 favorites]


Seriously? High resolution scanners are a thing. Take a fucking picture, you barbarians.

While high-res imagery of manuscripts are useful, they're no substitute for having the actual artifact available. Lots of interesting things can be learned from the book itself that aren't visible in photography, e.g. from the materials used for binding, sometimes including bits of other, older manuscripts; the foliation, or arrangement of the manuscript leaves; or even the presence of earlier, palimpsested texts still discernable outside the visible spectrum. Lots of discoveries in this regard, along with technological advancements enabling them, were made in the 20th century, which is good evidence that manuscripts need to be preserved entire for the future when scholars may want to interrogate them in ways we can't anticpate now.
posted by junco at 6:57 PM on January 12 [5 favorites]


Drigsdahl recalled one seller from the early days of the eBay boom who cut out leaves “with a pair of small manicure scissors,” leaving a choppy seascape of short, curved cuts along one edge.

This is just heartbreaking.
posted by jetlagaddict at 7:03 PM on January 12 [4 favorites]


This is very much a thing in the Japanese old print/book world too. A woodblock book from (say) 200 years ago, in one piece, is only really of interest to the serious collector (and only affordable to him). So the dealer will get the scissors out and split it up into dozens of pages, each of which will sell at a 'nice' price to a tourist looking for a curio - "Authentic Japanese woodblock print from 1810!" - bringing a tidy profit.

One by one, down they go; the only copies really safe from this are the prime ones tucked away into major museum collections.
posted by woodblock100 at 7:03 PM on January 12 [5 favorites]


These book breakers who are claiming that this brings art to some nebulous "common man" are pitching some serious profiteering woo. Maybe it's an attempt to salve their consciences, but I doubt they're in possession of such things.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 7:09 PM on January 12 [8 favorites]


It's the same thing with speakers. A vintage set of speakers that eBays for $250 may have $400 of parts in it. You see stuff get broken up all the time. Usually the pieces end up fixing other people's speakers, so at least they're going to a good cause, but some mighty nice equipment ends up getting broken down so people can make a buck.
posted by Slinga at 7:10 PM on January 12 [2 favorites]


The pictures of the shell of the book on her blog are also heart-rending.

(Also, people do similar things to this to modern art books as well-- we sent a book to Australia only to be told that three plates were cut out beforehand. A book published in the last fifteen years located in a library with fancy scanners and photocopiers with no restrictions on either. Why? Just why? Not even for money!)
posted by jetlagaddict at 7:10 PM on January 12


I was once in a bookshop where the owners were in the process of tearing apart an incunabulum in order to sell individual pages.

The proprietors gave off an air of bitter viciousness.

I hated that bookshop.
posted by IndigoJones at 7:12 PM on January 12 [1 favorite]


One 19th-c. book that has frequently fallen victim to this treatment is H. G. Bohn's edition of James Gillray's caricatures, which gets mighty pricey if you find it in its original state. Individual colorized leaves from the edition are everywhere.
posted by thomas j wise at 7:15 PM on January 12


It's the same thing with speakers.

A number of old cars, as well.
posted by eriko at 7:26 PM on January 12


I have a carved Chinese turquoise medalion which I have worn for about 20 years on a thong as a necklace. I have gotten more comments on this bit of jewelry than on anything else I have ever worn. When I bought it for $25 from an antique shop on Magazine Street in NOLA it was part of a group of three, and I bought the other two with it. A set of three Chinese pseudo-coins (carvings of coins with the iconic square hole in the middle) sounded a lot like some kind of divination set for casting I Ching readings.

The very old lady I bought it from said that her father had been president of the Colorado School of Mines in the early 20th century, and had collected these and many other things in his travels for the school.

In the late 1990's I happened to be at Caesar's Palace and in the Forum shops there was a place that sold Chinese coins. So I went in and asked the proprietor what he thought of my necklace. After a very long examination, he warned me that gemstones can't be dated (well you can date when the rock formed x million years ago but not when it was carved) and that there was a very small possibility it had been created during a kind of retro surge in the early 19th century. But given the (very primitive) workmanship it more likely dated to the 8th century A.D.

At the point of receiving this news I had been wearing it as a necklace for about 10 years. Against the immediate impulse to lock it up I weighed the fact that it literally has no value, since there's no way to establish its provenance, and that it is regularly appreciated by actual people who see it, which wouldn't happen if I locked it up in a box. So I still wear it.

But I do have the whole set. I have a pretty good idea what they were made for, and breaking them up would be a sin.
posted by localroger at 7:35 PM on January 12 [10 favorites]


It's the same thing with speakers.
A number of old cars, as well.

Old anything with a mechanical component really. It's a toss-up between keeping one or more old things intact but non-functional or keeping one functional and one or more incomplete. But, most times, this can be reversed if the values change. You can't as easily reassemble a book. There's also a lot more of these artefacts in existence, so the risk of them being completely lost forever is smaller. More importantly, an old car or speaker doesn't hold information in the same way a centuries-old book does - potentially information that no longer exists in any form. Not in the same league, but I was appalled that nobody wanted my Grandfather's old lighthouse technical manuals and similar publications from the 1920s and later. They now take pride of place in a bookcase while all the modern books are hidden in my bedroom.
posted by dg at 7:53 PM on January 12 [3 favorites]


A long time ago, in Israel, there were a group of scholars who competed with each other in producing the most accurate texts of the Hebrew Bible: consulting different manuscripts; making comparisons between different texts; using arcane grammatical rules to determine the precise arrangement of not only primary and subsidiary letters, but also vocalisation and cantillation. They created subtle and sophisticated mnemonics so that a scribe reading a variant text would instantly notice that a word had been spelt one way when it should have been spelled another. These studies reached their climax about a thousand years ago with the creation of what became the Aleppo Codex. Over the centuries the codex moved around a lot: from Tiberias to Basra to Jerusalem (where it was looted when that city fell to the Crusaders) to Cairo, and finally to the central synagogue of Aleppo, in Syria.

The Jewish community of Aleppo prized the Codex above all their possessions. They thought it had magical powers. If it ever left its home, they said, the Jewish community of Aleppo would be destroyed. The Codex was acknowledged to be the most precise Biblical manuscript in the world, and scholars came from all over the world to compare their texts to this one, the Keter, the Crown of all Bibles. It was kept in an iron safe in a special room and few indeed were the people allowed to examine it.

In 1947 there was a pogrom in Aleppo. The synagogue was burned and the Jews of Aleppo became refugees. The Codex was thought to be lost, but chapter by chapter, page by page, it started to turn up in Israel, smuggled by the exiled Jews of Aleppo. Unfortunately, a large fraction is missing, allegedly burned. There are no signs of charring on the remaining pages, however, and other fragments have occasionally been turned in. It is rumored that the Codex's keepers believed that the pages retain their mystical powers, and that they have divided the missing pages among their descendants. None of them admit it. Perhaps one day the missing pages will turn up, and Aleppo's Crown will be complete once again.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:56 PM on January 12 [16 favorites]


And I'm going to puke. Oh god.

Um yeah, this is how old books work on ebay.

Rather than a "dealer" waiting for someone to buy the book for $1000, he would rather strip out all 100 pages and sell them for $40 each.
posted by hal_c_on at 8:03 PM on January 12


I'm writing a biography of Charlotte Brontë, whose work (along with that of her siblings) was literally chopped up and sold by the piece by her literary heirs and a creepy autograph collector dude. One of her letters is in six pieces that reside in three separate countries, and the collection will never be complete or really accessible to scholars nearly 160 years after her death.

It makes me sick to my stomach. (So does the airfare to various foreign places where I do my research).

Thanks for posting this, PussKillian...sobering indeed.
posted by mynameisluka at 8:03 PM on January 12 [1 favorite]


Unfortunately all of this is extremely old news for anyone with a background in Art History, Art Conservation or Museum Studies. I had a professor in the late 1960's showing me pages from medieval manuscripts that had been removed for resale. As long as art and artifacts have value there will be those who attempt to cash in...
posted by jim in austin at 8:10 PM on January 12


Rather than a "dealer" waiting for someone to buy the book for $1000, he would rather strip out all 100 pages and sell them for $40 each.

If you read the article and her blog, the economics are addressed further. I think the surprise is in part the recent nature of the dispersal and the fact that this book had an interesting modern history.
posted by jetlagaddict at 8:10 PM on January 12 [1 favorite]



It's the same thing with speakers.
A number of old cars, as well.


Old computers as well, esp old big iron. Some are broken down for the metals value. Others are stripped of chips which are sold as "rare" on ePay. Things like core memory planes are cut out and sold as curiosities. Disk packs get disassembled and the individual disks hung on a wall. Often the bulky chassis and power supplies are thrown out. Lots of interesting hardware out there would still run, if not for some bit that had been stripped out.

Nowhere near the loss of an ancient manuscript like this, but a shame nonetheless.
posted by kjs3 at 8:12 PM on January 12


This is even old news to anyone who has ever thought twice about where that pretty botanical print came from. Unless you framed the back of a Cooks Illustrated, a book was probably destroyed for that too.
posted by maryr at 8:35 PM on January 12 [1 favorite]


I am planning to buy a 400+ page art book (still in print!) so I can chop it up for prints because the museum refuses to release the individual pages as prints. I get why this is a terrible thing to do to an artefact especially for the loss of the surrounding information (like grave-robbing vs an archeological dig), but it is also frustrating to have no way to access individual components of a historical piece, when the damn thing exists as a digital copy. I think more crazy-high-resolution digital copies would satisfy a lot of the consumers buying these things, and the insane collectors - well not much is going to stop someone who would go into a library with a razor blade.
posted by viggorlijah at 8:48 PM on January 12 [3 favorites]


In the same crass, avaricious spirit -- wasn't there a scandal in the last twenty years about some guy cutting up a Picasso and selling off little pieces?
posted by jayder at 8:52 PM on January 12


No one is upset about core memory being stripped out of old dinosaurs. Seriously.
posted by GuyZero at 8:55 PM on January 12


No one is upset about core memory being stripped out of old dinosaurs. Seriously.

I'm sure I would be upset if I had the slightest clue what that was.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:23 PM on January 12 [1 favorite]


I break books for personal art projects, and then only books that are bound for the dumpster. The act of slicing a binding and extracting the vitals of a book for transplant into my own projects reminds me of salvaging corpses for usable organs. It is a delicate and organic procedure.

woodblock100: One by one, down they go; the only copies really safe from this are the prime ones tucked away into major museum collections.

My experience is in a public library, which is by definition not as secure as a tucked-away museum collection, but we do have a locked room which houses the fine art collection. I was in there last year touching each book (RFID tagging, actually, for shame), taking my time with the project as one does, and noticed some of the catalogues raisonné were missing plates. Sliced right out. After a close inspection of the special collection by the librarian, entire volumes were deemed missing as well.

Again, it's a public library, so security isn't exactly the first concern, but it just goes to show that wherever valuable books reside, no matter how tucked away they may be, you'll find the people who love to slice them into tiny pieces skulking nearby.
posted by carsonb at 9:38 PM on January 12 [3 favorites]


This is even old news to anyone who has ever thought twice about where that pretty botanical print came from. Unless you framed the back of a Cooks Illustrated, a book was probably destroyed for that too.

True.

But there are books, and then there are manuscripts. Libraries chuck books into dumpsters all the time. Manuscripts, not so much.

The thing in the FPP is the latter. Those pages weren't printed; they were written, and drawn, meticulously, by hand. There was one copy in existence, and that one copy is now destroyed.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:43 PM on January 12 [10 favorites]


Ugh. This kind of thing makes me wince.

I am planning to buy a 400+ page art book (still in print!) so I can chop it up for prints because the museum refuses to release the individual pages as prints. I get why this is a terrible thing to do to an artefact especially for the loss of the surrounding information (like grave-robbing vs an archeological dig), but it is also frustrating to have no way to access individual components of a historical piece, when the damn thing exists as a digital copy. I think more crazy-high-resolution digital copies would satisfy a lot of the consumers buying these things, and the insane collectors - well not much is going to stop someone who would go into a library with a razor blade.

I've also had this argument (with no success) with a museum. I get copyright law, and yet I still suspect there are often better work arounds than needing to buy and destroy a perfectly nice book.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:58 PM on January 12


You can't beat entropy.
posted by furtive at 10:01 PM on January 12 [4 favorites]


I am planning to buy a 400+ page art book (still in print!) so I can chop it up for prints because the museum refuses to release the individual pages as prints. I get why this is a terrible thing to do to an artefact especially for the loss of the surrounding information (like grave-robbing vs an archeological dig), but it is also frustrating to have no way to access individual components of a historical piece,

The difference is that yours is a modern book still in print, most likely through a popular publisher who runs editions of thousands of copies per print run.

Medieval manuscripts were hand-made.

Centuries-old prints are historical artifacts in limited supply, and in many cases the only surviving example of a particular work.

If a book like this gets chopped up and sold page by page on eBay, that's it. We don't have that book anymore. It's not like we can order another copy on Amazon, as you can with the book you plan to deconstruct for artwork to hang around the house.
posted by Sara C. at 10:49 PM on January 12 [6 favorites]


Oh, and now that print on demand is popular, a lot of museums are making much more of their collections available as individual prints.
posted by Sara C. at 10:51 PM on January 12


I responded viscerally to that page, the splayed open spine of that manuscript in center, the same way I would have responded to a picture of an autopsy. Jesus. Who could do that? I couldn't do that to a printed modern book, even one doomed to the dumpster. Worst I ever did was make a hollow book out of a dictionary once and that felt a bit sacrilegious.
posted by Jilder at 11:50 PM on January 12 [2 favorites]


It's astonishing to think that even the gutted 19th century spine was sold off at profit, thus revealing the recent dismemberment. This is real tail to snout work, and the only way to stop it is to best these butchers in the sales chain. Instead of trawling eBay and rending their garments, these anguished medievalists should be watching the auctions, and raising the relatively small money needed for libraries to purchase the minor gems that come through. Good luck getting libraries to take 'em, though. Sigh...
posted by Scram at 1:04 AM on January 13


Some remediation - or at least accounting for the loss - may be possible via things like the Manuscriptlink project (I'm wondering if they will use Shared Canvas).

I break books for personal art projects, and then only books that are bound for the dumpster.

carsonb, does the Altered Books community have anything like a shared code of practice on how to determine that a book may be broken? What kinds of discussions take place about this, and where?
posted by GeorgeBickham at 1:10 AM on January 13


You can't beat entropy.

True enough, and it'll all be dust in the end. But why help it along!
posted by woodblock100 at 1:40 AM on January 13


Slinga: "It's the same thing with speakers."

And cars. Especially so where both coupes and convertibles were both produced of a particular model. A excellent survivor coupe will be broken up to restore a basket case convertible even when the coupe is the more interesting car. A complete but non running car is a huge liability and expensive to have around so many times it's dispersal if you are lucky and the shredder if you aren't once the caretaker's money, time or life has run out.

And tools; many planes are wildly more valuable as parts than as a whole.
posted by Mitheral at 5:40 AM on January 13


I get tagged as a loopy zealot whenever I lecture someone about their twee "literary" jewelry made from typewriter keys, because they're not "recycled" or "reclaimed," not ever. I've got an embarrassingly large collection of manual typewriters, that I've gathered and stored like some sort of raconteur prepper, and I've never found one at a thrift store, in a dumpster, or...anywhere yet that couldn't be brought back to life with a few hours of work. So the keychoppers, which is what we in the monastery of typists call them, buy cheap old typewriters, clip off the keys to sell on regretsy or ebay, and heave the rest into the trash like a live horseshoe crab that's been harvested of its toenails.

What's the big deal? Like all of these things, there is not an unlimited supply feeding the metaphorical ivory trade, and it does matter to posterity. Hell, your favorite writer may have written the book that changed you on a typewriter, and the writer you don't know about yet might still be doing it, despite all the calls of a hyperactive culture to get with the app.

Sigh.
posted by sonascope at 6:18 AM on January 13 [5 favorites]


I buy entire vintage magazines when I can, although I have been known to use the ones that are literally falling to bits for various craft purposes. But it's true that you can buy an entire magazine for, say, twelve to twenty dollars, but you might also be able to get somebody to pay that just for the Coke ad you removed. Any antique mall will have big milk cartons full of single ads, but many of them don't have anyone who buys the whole magazine. At the very least, these are publications that were out there in great quantities, nothing that's one-of-a-kind.

My own museum's collection, which I'm certain is the case with many others, has a large assortment of prints that were removed from books. Sometimes they've even been cut out of the page they appeared, cropped right to the edge of the print - or to what we hope was the edge. But I didn't think this was a thing that still happened. I can even see the temptation - I'd love to have an original piece like that - but the guilt would prevent me from enjoying it. I have a little piece of inked vellum that I got from a craftsman who demonstrated the medieval process of preparing all those writing materials, and it does nicely for me.
posted by PussKillian at 6:44 AM on January 13


No one is upset about core memory being stripped out of old dinosaurs. Seriously.

So true. It's like mixing business with metaphors.
posted by Strange Interlude at 7:48 AM on January 13


augh augh augh augh...

...is my reaction to that picture. Great article, but a punch in the stomach, definitely.
posted by corb at 8:11 AM on January 13


If culture wars are a real thing then this is a war crime.
posted by mhoye at 10:06 AM on January 13


First, disclaimer:
Yes, even hi-res scans are inferior to the original,
BUT I still think the true tragedy here is that is NOT standard practise to scan and digitise pretty much everything of historical value.
Seriously.

We are still stuck in a liminal age where we have the technology, but do not have the processes (established archivces - eventually there will be some industry standards) established for electronically storing ALL old texts. I'd like it if the manuscripts weren't even being sold by Sotheby's, without having a verified online scan.
Would be great for authentication for buyers, and so that there will be a record for future scholars if (when?) the originals are no longer available.

Things are just... things. It hadn't ever occurred to me to chop up one of the typewriters I have seen in dumpsters, but hey, maybe that's not a bad thing to do with it.
Information? That matters.
posted by Elysum at 7:49 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


BUT I still think the true tragedy here is that is NOT standard practise to scan and digitise pretty much everything of historical value.

Not to be a total downer but the economics of this are, realistically, pretty staggering. (Consider the British Library's million images, scanned and released on Flickr as pretty little isolated images as part of a failed collaboration that already required larger amounts of outside funding.) And digital archives aren't infallible, though something is usually better than nothing. Major collectors are also sometimes in it for the rarity and exclusivity, and sometimes publicity brings unwelcome eyes on an object's provenance at auction. Sure, with time, this should happen and will happen, and many museums and libraries have done scans of the best of their medieval collections, for example. But it usually comes down to funding, and that's almost a rarer beast than an untouched Book of Hours.
posted by jetlagaddict at 9:18 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


It hadn't ever occurred to me to chop up one of the typewriters I have seen in dumpsters, but hey, maybe that's not a bad thing to do with it.

Except that it perpetuates and accelerates the destruction of objects that are then gone forever. They may not be your thing, but for lots of us, they are still the best tool yet manufactured for writing, and gutting them for a tacky craft trade means future generations will be denied access to those tools. That, I think, is awfully sad.

Things are things, but information is a thing, too. These books are things, too. If you transcribed all the text in an ancient book, have you saved the book? Are you sure you didn't miss anything? Archimedes Palimpsest, perhaps?
posted by sonascope at 6:29 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


No one is upset about core memory being stripped out of old dinosaurs. Seriously.

Dave, stop. Stop, will you? Stop, Dave. Will you stop Dave? Stop, Dave.
posted by gamera at 7:13 AM on January 14 [3 favorites]


They may not be your thing, but for lots of us, they are still the best tool yet manufactured for writing, and gutting them for a tacky craft trade means future generations will be denied access to those tools.

Nup. New manual typewriters can always be made from the plans of the old, or by reverse engineering the old.

And unless you're dealing with a specific typewriter of a specific author who for whatever reason used to write notes on the typewriter itself, or unless the manufacture of the old ones involved materials now illegal to use (ie elephant ivory keys) for which there is no legal equivalent, the new ones would* be just as good as the old ones. In this respect typewriters are unlike medieval books of hours, which carry substantial contextual information. Certainly replicas would be exactly equivalent as tools for writing.

*In potential, anyway. It's of course possible that the people building new ones from the old could fuck it up, just as people can fuck up any process.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:03 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


New manual typewriters can always be made from the plans of the old, or by reverse engineering the old.

Can be, but aren't, and won't be, not to the original standard. You can go to SkyMall and buy a cheap plasticky typewriter that's the last of what's available new, but you'll never get the touch of a Hermes 3000 or the tight precision of an Olympia SM9 or the tickety lightness of an Olivetti Lettera 32. Touch has significance. Feel has value. There's a reason why people like certain keyboards over others, and different writing platforms.

We have the plans to build Space Shuttles and Saturn Vs, too, but will anyone ever build one?

How 'bout something simpler, like a 1967 VW Type 1 Sedan? A Steinway?

We could build those, but we won't, so why be cavalier about destroying or discarding something else that someone will find useful? To each their own, of course, but I think it's sad to destroy something that could be useful to someone else to make a tchotchke for a quick buck.
posted by sonascope at 8:28 AM on January 14 [3 favorites]


His thoughts were red thoughts: "Seriously? High resolution scanners are a thing. Take a fucking picture, you barbarians."

You spend the limitless money and resources of a thousand worldwide museums with great ease over the internet.

Please solve the US unemployment problems with your next post.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:56 PM on January 14


How 'bout something simpler, like a 1967 VW Type 1 Sedan? A Steinway?

All things are ephemeral, even the greatest things.

Ashes to ashes, etc.
posted by GuyZero at 1:04 PM on January 14


Sonascope wrote: These books are things, too. If you transcribed all the text in an ancient book, have you saved the book? Are you sure you didn't miss anything? Archimedes Palimpsest, perhaps?

Thousands of fragmentary Hebrew manuscripts have been recovered from the bindings of old books. Jewish books looted after pogroms and expulsions were frequently pulled apart and used to help bind other books. There's a major international effort to recover these fragments, because so much Jewish cultural history has been lost.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:24 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


IAmBroom: "Please solve the US unemployment problems with your next post."

I think I might have a solution for this problem.
posted by Mitheral at 1:36 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


All things are ephemeral, even the greatest things.

Ashes to ashes, etc.


So why save or preserve anything at all?
posted by sonascope at 3:31 PM on January 14


So why save or preserve anything at all?

People do it because they resists mortality. To try to stop the stress that comes from living in a world that never stops changing. As talismans representing memories.

There may be an argument to be made that some things cannot be re-made once lost (e.g. seed banks) or that we need to preserve knowledge through artifacts that is easier saved than lost and regained.

But honestly, the vast majority of things don't need to be saved or preserved. They're just things. That people save things has little to do with things and much to do with people.
posted by GuyZero at 3:45 PM on January 14


People do it because they resists mortality. To try to stop the stress that comes from living in a world that never stops changing. As talismans representing memories.

Sometimes, though, it's because the thing being preserved is a tool that is otherwise not duplicated in the form or function of its replacements. Quality is substantive. Feel is meaningful. Portland cement is not Roman cement, and it's taken us two millennia to rediscover the latter. Just dismissing the instinct to preserve existing things as nostalgia or a metaphorical security blanket misses the distinction.
posted by sonascope at 4:17 PM on January 14


Sometimes, though, it's because the thing being preserved is a tool that is otherwise not duplicated in the form or function of its replacements.

I said that in my second paragraph? But most things are not these things. People lived full lives without Roman concrete.
posted by GuyZero at 4:50 PM on January 14


People lived full lives without Roman concrete.

This is just lies, filthy dirty lies-- did the Visigoths put you up to this?
posted by jetlagaddict at 4:56 PM on January 14 [4 favorites]


His thoughts were red thoughts: "Seriously? High resolution scanners are a thing. Take a fucking picture, you barbarians."

IAmBroom: You spend the limitless money and resources of a thousand worldwide museums with great ease over the internet.


I don't know why you think I am criticising museums, some of whom are doing extremely well on the digitisation of their collections. Museums are really at the forefront of open data and open public resources, largely via their excellent implementation of digital archiving and scanning technology. See the awesome stuff available through the Open GLAM website, for example.

I am criticising the dealers who are breaking books to sell leaves to people who will likely frame them and stick them on a wall, and the people buying those leaves; something that could easily be achieved with a print from a scan, without destroying a historical artifact. You know - the actual subject of the FPP?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:56 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


People lived full lives without Roman concrete.

They certainly did, with an inferior product made in a process that creates far more CO2 than that silly old ephemeral Roman concrete manufacturing process that we spent two millennia trying to relearn. Conservation feeds progress.
posted by sonascope at 9:04 PM on January 14 [2 favorites]


Roman concrete isn't universally better (it tends to have lower psi ratings); it depends on access to particular volcanic rock (which is a problem because it's so heavy, cement is wherever possible made with local materials); and portland cement isn't any slouch as a binder for concrete aggregate.

In fact even though fly ash is readily available and as an admixture to portland cement imparts the desirable features of roman cement to portland cements it still isn't universally used because it adds complexity to a product that is already more than good enough even though the fly ash itself is essentially free (it's a waste product of coal burning).
posted by Mitheral at 8:09 AM on January 15


Portland cement is not Roman cement, and it's taken us two millennia to rediscover the latter.

And again, as a question of priorities (I'm not saying destroy things for the sake of destroying?!?) - we HAD plenty of Roman cement.
What we didn't have, is any idea of how to make it.
Given my 'druthers, I'd rather have retained the knowledge of how to make it, than any given


Ok - actually, it comes down to 'replaceable/irreplaceable'.
Manuscripts are irreplaceable. The Manuscript itself can be manually copied to an extent, onto fresh vellum etc, but the information is absolutely irreplaceable, if it isn't recorded.
Rare objects are replaceable up to a point, e.g. on ebay. Last remaining object? No longer existing manufactoring processes? No longer able to replaced.
And again, in many many cases, I'd prefer to have had pictures and manufacturing information so that something CAN be remade if it needs to be, than left with a single black box object that cannot be remade because the information to do so has been lost.

I'm very much of a recycling mind. If something is replaceable, and unused? Pass it on. If no one wants it? Break it down, recycle it, turn it into something new.
I rescue stuff from dumpsters, and hardly ever buy anything new... we're talking food, undies & stuff I can't get at opshops, and a portion of my electronics. That's it.
Not a single piece of my furniture is new. Actually, none of my shoes are new, except a pair of jandals (I tend to get unwanted/lightly used Dr Martens, Solovairs etc - I know my size, so can get them sight unseen).
I really have to combat my own hoarding tendencies. It's hard for me to let go of something if it really is just going to the dump, and isn't being reused or recycled somehow (too used for anyone to want after me). I'd already had some leather boots so worn I got leather patches on them. And replacements of the EXACT SAME TYPE worn and patched. Then hung on to BOTH of them in case I needed 'dirty shoes'. Don't need any planters.
Finally chucked them, yay for me!
Because stuff can drag you down, get in your way, and get in the way of you living, and that's an even bigger waste.


We all have our pet hates of wastefulness of course. Ugh. Wastefulness. That is essentially what we are all agreeing on here, right?
Also, I'm sorry, I wasn't being facetious about the typewriter thing - I've frequently seen old typewriters being dumped, and couldn't think of anything I could do with them. I'd have rescued them if someone wanted them, but no one did, so I would have rescued parts if I thought anything *could* be done with them.
My hate - Demolition derbies, and the subsequent inability to find gear boxes for love or money for nice old cars? Yeah. That bugs me more than it should. But again, because something has suddenly become non-replaceable.
posted by Elysum at 2:47 PM on January 15


His thoughts were red thoughts: "I am criticising the dealers who are breaking books to sell leaves to people who will likely frame them and stick them on a wall, and the people buying those leaves; something that could easily be achieved with a print from a scan, without destroying a historical artifact. "

So, you're suggesting that the thieves who stole, damaged and sold museum property should just have scanned it and distributed the JPGs for a small fee?

Great thinking. I bet they're kicking themselves for not thinking of that themselves.
posted by IAmBroom at 7:45 PM on January 15 [1 favorite]


So, you're suggesting that the thieves who stole, damaged and sold museum property should just have scanned it and distributed the JPGs for a small fee?

The FPP doesn't talk about theft. I don't know what you're talking about, or why you so seem so hell bent on picking a fight. So, I wash my hands of you.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:27 PM on January 16


I misread this as JRPG and got kind of excited.
posted by maryr at 6:44 PM on January 16


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