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Why does the peer reviewer need a monument? Why in Moscow? Why outside the Higher School of Economics? Why carrying the inscriptions “Accept”, “Minor Changes”, “Major Changes”, “Revise and Resubmit”, “Reject”? The answer apparently — because it was there. (It being the block on the left.)

Nature has an account of the monument’s origin.

The picture shows Ivan Chirikov who came up with the plan and raised $2,500 to realize it. The concrete cube, which was perviously just in the way, has also been carved with the titles of 21 papers. These are papers written by the largest donors, who are thus immortalized in return for their generosity. Now they too* may cry “Si monumentum requiris, circumspice“. Of course, given the monument’s location, maybe this should be said in Russian. Fortunately Pushkin stands ready with his riff on Horace’s take on the topic:

Exegi monumentum

Я памятник себе воздвиг нерукотворный,
К нему не заростет народная тропа,
Вознесся выше он главою непокорной
        Александрийского столпа.
Нет, весь я не умру — душа в заветной лире
Мой прах переживет и тленья убежит —
И славен буду я, доколь в подлунном мире
        Жив будет хоть один пиит.
Слух обо мне пройдет по всей Руси великой,
И назовет меня всяк сущий в ней язык,
И гордый внук славян, и финн, и ныне дикой
        Тунгуз, и друг степей калмык.
И долго буду тем любезен я народу,
Что чувства добрые я лирой пробуждал,
Что в мой жестокой век восславил я Свободу
        И милость к падшим призывал.
Веленью божию, о муза, будь послушна,
Обиды не страшась, не требуя венца,
Хвалу и клевету приемли равнодушно,

        И не оспаривай глупца.

I’ve reared a monument not built by human hands.
The public path to it cannot be overgrown.
With insubmissive head far loftier it stands
               Than Alexander’s columned stone.
No, I shall not all die. My soul in hallowed berth
Of art shall brave decay and from my dust take wing,
And I shall be renowned whilst on this mortal earth
               Even one poet lives to sing.
Tidings of me shall spread through all the realm of Rus
And every tribe in Her shall name me as they speak:
The haughty western Pole, the east’s untamed Tungus,
               North Finns and the south steppe’s Kalmyk.
And long shall I a man dear to the people be
For how my lyre once quickened kindly sentiment,
I in a tyrant age who sang of liberty,
               And mercy toward fallen men.
To God and his commands pay Thou good heed, O Muse.
To praise and slander both be nonchalant and cool.
Demand no laureate’s wreath, think nothing of abuse,
               And never argue with a fool.

Translation by A. Z. Foreman at Poems Found in Translation.

Here’s Nabokov reading the poem in another translation.

Pushkin was of course paying tribute to Horace’s Exegi monumentum, which for good measure here follows with a translation from the site Lost in translation.

Horace, Ode 3.30.

Exegi monumentum aere perennnius
regalique situ pyramidum altius,
quod non imber edax, non Aquilo impotens
possit diruere aut innumerabilis
annorum series et fuga temporum.
Non omnis moriar multaque pars mei
vitabit Libitinam; usque ego postera
crescam laude recens. Dum Capitolium
scandet cum tacita virgine pontifex,
dicar, qua violens obstrepit Aufidus
et qua pauper aquae Daunus agrestium
regnavit populorum, ex humili potens,
princeps Aeolium carmen ad Italos
deduxisse modos. Sume superbiam
quaesitam meritis et mihi Delphica
lauro cinge volens, Melpomene, comam.
I have finished a monument more lasting than bronze
and higher than the royal structure of the pyramids,
which neither the destructive rain, nor wild Aquilo
is able to destroy, nor the countless
series of years and flight of ages.
I will not wholly die and a great part of me
will avoid Libitina; I will continuously arise
fresh with later praise. While a priest will climb
the Capitoline with a silent maiden,
I shall be spoken of where the violent Aufidus roars
and where Daunus, poor in water, ruled
a rural people, powerful from humble origin,
the first to have brought Aeolic song to
Italian meters. Accept the proud honor
obtained by your merits and with the Delphic
laural, Melpomene, gladly encircle my hair.

I guess we’ve strayed quite a long way from a concrete block abandoned in a Moscow park. Enough already.

* This is the inscription on Sir Christopher Wren’s monument in St Paul’s Cathedral.


Photo: Cambridge News

Cutting-edge as ever, the University of Cambridge has just announced the first LEGO Professor of Play in Education. The Cambridge News story was sent to us via Publishing Cambridge.

Professor Ramchandani looks like he’s ready to have fun.

Does this mean we should look for more translations into LEGO?

Well, of course, I’ll defend anyone’s right to form a new word. That’s how language evolves.

Unfortunately, although it looks convincing in this cunningly-made image which appropriately reached me on Twitter, Shakespeare didn’t create the word covfefe (he — or the compositor of the “bad Quarto” — wrote flattery, if you care) and I don’t think our President intended to create a new vocabulary item either, though he seems actually to have managed to do this. I believe that, as a proud non-reader, the President thought this was how you’d spell kerfuffle, a word he’d heard but of course never seen. He probably paused to see if there was anyone around who could confirm the spelling, and hit “Send” by mistake.

Surprisingly NPR used both words in one headline without drawing what to me is the obvious conclusion. The alternative explanation, that he was on his way to type “coverage” and got out of control has a certain plausibility especially as the f and g keys are next to one another.

The truly excitable will be thrilled to know that the word “covfefe” appears on page 392 of the “book” entitled naxjbfyu in the Library of Babel, shelf reference number:

But of course since the Library of Babel, as envisaged by Jorge Louis Borges and realized by Jonathan Basile, exists to contain every conceivable text ever written or ever writable in every possible combination of characters, it would have to be there wouldn’t it? Computers are happy to do this sort of thing as long as you feed them sufficient electrical power and cooling. News of this Library of Babel, clearly an important contribution to human and non-human library resources, was sent by Quartz. It’s easier to access the Library itself by this link reached via Google.

Atlas Obscura reports on a book tower designed by Matej Kren.

The Czechs seem to go in for this sort of thing: here’s their pavilion at Expo 2000 in Hanover, also designed by Kren.

“Gravity mixer”

Meanwhile donations of books are being solicited for the reconstruction of the Parthenon of Books in Kassel to commemorate the burning of some 2,000 books by the Nazis on May 19, 1933. See Universe in Universe for details.

El Partenón de libros was first created in Buenos Aires in 1983, using books which had been banned by the recently collapsed Argentinian military dictatorship.

Open Culture has a story with this Economist video of the artist talking about the structure.

(If you receive this via email and do not see a video here, please click on the heading of the blog post so you can view it in your browser.)

This somewhat ridiculous video is brought to us by The Digital Reader. It originates on The Hydraulic Press Channel at YouTube. Yes there apparently is a following for squeezing things with massive pressures. Strange passtime, but it is impressive how much damage a book exploding under pressure will do.


Here are the engraver’s tools:

  • A: Graver
  • B: Glass (normally either 3x or 10x power
  • C: Etching point

It’s hard to imagine such detailed work being carried out with no more than these simple tools.

History educating Youth






As the caption at The Grolier Club’s exhibition, Images of Value: The Artwork Behind US Security Engraving 1830s – 1980s, tells us “In the US tradition, human flesh work and drapery (clothing) are cut with a graver; everything else is etched — buildings, animals, scenery, trains, everything other than human figures and their clothing.” Just why, we are not told. I wonder if it had anything to do with preventing forgery — the human figure was said to be the hardest to forge.

The exhibition runs till 29 April at The Grolier Club, 47 East 60th Street, New York.

See also Engraving a halftone block, and Die sinker.

I can’t manage to make this larger. Their embed link seems not to mean anything to WordPress. You can read it at its source though: My poetic side.

I hadn’t realized you could repeat as poet laureate: I’d assumed it was a once-in-a-lifetime deal. Notable that almost all the names are familiar to today’s poetry readers.


But Christmas, or should I say the holiday season, is coming.

The Digital Reader, run by Nate Hoffelder, is an invaluable resource. You may have noticed the frequency with which I link to it.

So it was with dismay that I got this rather panicked e-mail yesterday:

The Digital Reader blog is offline for the indefinite future.

This email includes our official statement as to why the site is down, and it is going out to everyone who signed up for the mailing list.

The Digital Reader experienced a minor technical snafu with its database Monday morning.

I tried to fix the problem by installing a backup copy of the site only to discover both of the most recent backups were corrupted.

The automated daily backups were performed by my web host, Mediatemple, and were my only set of backups. This problem is currently being worked on by Mediatemple, and if it turns out that all the backups are corrupted then my site is dead.

P.S. Expressions of sympathy are appreciated, but what I could use right now is an introduction to a lawyer who can help me get compensation from Mediatemple (experience with ToS contract law is a plus).

I did not think to include this until after I released the statement, but I also want to add that I am open to any job offers or business proposals, or even out and out insane ideas.

I may or may not relaunch the blog under new management, possibly with a corporate parent/partner.

I rather like that possibility, but it is just as likely that I might take my skills and 7 years of experience as a web publisher and go write for someone else. Or I might do something completely unrelated to blogging about digital publishing.

The sky is the limit at the moment.

P.S. My main source of income vanished with the blog, so I would also be grateful for any donations.

A few weeks ago The Digital Reader had a post about the importance of backing up your blog. Horrid irony that the messenger should be thus victimized. Note the importance of back-up. I’m almost up-to-date on my stone-age backup of Making Book. I must work harder.

Fortunately Mr Hoffelder’s blog has been restored, as today’s e-mail indicates (after the tell-tale arrival of today’s version of The Digital Reader in my in-box).

The following post was supposed to have been included in the newsletter this morning and explain that The Digital Reader survived its near death experience.

Not everyone got that post in their copy of the newsletter, so I find myself having to send it out again.

Reports of this blog’s demise were greatly exaggerated.

The adequate engineers at MediaTemple were able to recover the database in the backup from early Sunday. This has cost me all the posts from Sunday and Monday, but it looks like everything else has been restored.

Posting will continue as soon as I have run a few tests to make sure that everything works. (And of course beatings will continue until morale improves.)

Thank you, Kat and John, for giving me the names of a couple lawyers who could have helped me with the worst-case scenario (getting compensated for a destroyed blog).

And thank you to everyone else who expressed sympathy with my situation. I appreciate the moral (and in several cases, financial) support.

Welcome back.

UnknownThey weren’t a bookstore, though they’d sell the odd book, but Tekserve are about to succumb to bookstore-itis — their NYC rent (on 23rd Street, which must obviously be coming up in the world) is set to triple. So Tekserve will be closing. I did know about this already, but here’s a handy story from Atlas Obscura.

This is tragic, but of course all good things do always come to an end. Me, I’d never think of going anywhere else to buy a Mac. This is the only store I’ve ever been in where they’d actually take time to argue you out of spending too much — “No. No. From what your telling me about your usage, there’s no reason for you to buy Giant Apple — Medium Apple will do you just fine”. Their hearts were really in repair: they did sales because people kind of wanted it.

You can travel a lot further than 23rd Stret before you’ll find service like that. As we are unfortunately about to find out.