The launch of the Kindle got me thinking about all the things an e-reader can never be. You can't inscribe it to a loved one or press flowers between it's pages. It can never be an object, loved and cherished and passed from person to person, with any history. Your children cannot draw upon the pages and fill it with precious memories. Illustrations look terrible on it, especially art, which needs a grand scale. For these reasons and many more, help me celebrate the real thing: dusty old books!
Monday, 11 January 2010
Carnival of Venice
It will soon be that time of the year again, when the people of Venice put on their fantastical masks and take to the Grand Canal to celebrate their famous carnival. Today I listened to Donizetti's Venetian opera Lucrezia Borgia and I was suddenly reminded of a bizarre and beautiful book, which is one of the greatest arguments against the Kindle. For this book is hand made. Beautifully. It is completely unique.
It is called Navi Venete, and no author or illustrator stakes a claim on it. It is entirely anonymous and yet made with unwavering love and dedication. Inside the board covers, stitched into the book, are a collection of around 25 exquisite if rather naive paintings of Venetian ships. Some are taken from mosaics, others from paintings by Giotto or Tintoretto. Others from real ships. They range from tiny little boats, to battleships, and on to the splendid ceremonial ships of the spectacular carnival itself, with the city's protector, the Lion of St Mark proudly standing on flags of gold.
I have never been to Venice. It seems almost superfluous when so many other people have been. And yet I long to go. No doubt I would be bewildered by the light and the details on the architecture and get in a tizzy about how on earth to paint it and then struggling with the realisation that I am, alas, not J.M.W. Turner. But go I will...one day.
Until then, Leyla Gencer sings Donizetti's music and these beautiful little paintings fill my head with dreams and hopes of what I might one day discover when I finally get there.