Oberlin College Special Collections
Created by Todd Pattison
Many people think that carrying around an entire small library on an e-reader is a novel concept, made possible by modern technology. But portable libraries are not new; in previous centuries traveling libraries were housed in trunks or cases and provided access to books away from home. Comprising fourteen books in a miniature wooden box this piece is meant to reflect a 17th century Venetian merchant’s traveling library. While traveling on business a merchant would have wanted books that related to his business, ones that he could read for pleasure and others that might relate to the area traveled in. The bindings are all limp paper or parchment to minimize the weight during travel. While there are examples of antique, traveling libraries in public and private collections, will an e-reader and its contents survive more than a few years? Will we be able to determine what books an individual or group thought important enough to carry with them? Even if we know the existence of the e-texts on specific devices we won’t be able to determine use through notes, wear, provenance markings and other physical evidence.