Touching wild animals and other dangers in a library

Do not annoy an elephant. Do not cut yourself being in love. How to avoid these dangers? How to pet an elephant without fear? Come in our library’s Africa department and make a very special sensual experience. This little photo story is about the haptics of books on and from Africa.

cover detail of Michael Poliza (& friends): South Africa, Kempen: teNeues 2010, F 89.262.82

I have chosen some examples from our Africa collection at Frankfurt University Library to demonstrate that

  • to handle a book is more than just grabbing and open it,
  • experiencing the surface feel can be joyful and fulfilling,
  • books are physical objects with much more quality characteristics than one would expect,
  • books can be art.

The following amateurish pictures were done by myself and are biased – they only should make you curious. Haptics cannot be captured in a photograph at all. So do come and enjoy our physical books.

1. Animal skins

Tania Blixen: Jenseits von Afrika, Zürich: Manesse 2010, 89.081.39

The grey embossed paper cover, the large size and the heavy weight of the pictorial book by the well known photographer Michael Poliza (and others like Chris Fallows, Thomas P. Peschak, Mandla Mnyakama) on South Africa fit very well to the cover picture of the book jacket. However, this special paper has also been used in other colours, evoking perhaps the skin of an antelope or more generally the wild life of Africa.

The Swiss edition of Tania/Karen Blixen’s “Out of Africa” by Manesse in 2010 was printed and bound by „GCP Media GmbH, Pößneck”. In the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung a reviewer statet:

Manchen Büchern sollte man unter den Rock gucken, um sie als Gesamtkunstwerk würdigen zu können. Die neue deutsche Ausgabe des Klassikers ‘Jenseits von Afrika’, dessen Autorin bei uns als Tania Blixen bekannt ist, trägt unter dem Schutzumschlag einen Einband mit edler, kakaofarbener Antilopenfell-Anmutung. Und auf dem Deckel steht, in Versalien, nichts als das Wort „Afrika“ – der Name des Kontinents, den just im Erscheinungsjahr ein sportliches Großereignis ins Zentrum der medialen Aufmerksamkeit rückt.
Kristina Maidt-Zinke: Der ganze Erdteil war ihr Handspiegel. Tania Blixens Hauptwerk „Jenseits von Afrika“ in einer nuancierteren Neuübersetzung aus dem Dänischen, in: Süddeutsche Zeitung 12.07.2010, Literatur, Seite 14.

In short she suggests “to gaze under the skirt” of this book to value end experience the book as a masterpiece of art.

The animals and the nature of Africa are the most prominent in public interest and contribute to the romantic stereotype attached to the continent. Another example is the cover of Michael Poliza: Classic Africa, Kempen: teNeues 2010, F 89 346 85, showing a collection of artistic duotone prints.

Simply holding this book, lifting it, looking at it, feeling the cover; it is clear this book is special. It is the rare book that begs to be opened. […] The cover is something very special. The material is some kind of synthetic material with an animal fur texture.

Daniel G. Lebryk: Gorgeous, Amazon review on Classic Africa (Hardcover), 17.12.2010.

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