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THE BIBLIO FILE is a leading podcast that examines "the book" and book culture. Hosted by NIGEL BEALE it features wide ranging conversations with writers, poets, book publishers, booksellers, book editors, book collectors, book makers, book scholars, book critics, book designers, book publicists, literary agents and other best practitioners who busy themselves with the world of books.

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Jan 1, 2012

From March 23 to April 30, 2006 the Canadian Centre for Architecture hosted an exhibition entitled 125 Kilos of Books. I took in the show and interviewed Serge Belet, Head of Exhibitions at the CCA, about it.

From the notes: 

"Celebrating the designation of Montreal as UNESCO World Book Capital City for 2005-2006, the exhibition presents a selection of printed architectural works dating from the 15th century to the present from the CCA’s collection in order to provoke thought about what seems, at first sight, the most banal fact of any book: its size.

A book’s dimensions are only partly determined by the technology of its production or the physical comfort of its readers. Size is routinely used by authors and their publishers to indicate value, to justify price, and to control how and by whom their work is read – whether casually or ceremonially, individually or in groups, by the rich few or the many poor...

Architecture in print has a long tradition of the big book. As in other disciplines such as human anatomy, this tradition developed because scale added clarity to the illustrations in a treatise, and kept better faith with the original drawings...

By contrast, the builder’s manual is traditionally small enough to fit the literal and metaphorical pocket of its intended audience... 

The books presented in the exhibition encompass an impressive range of scale and size, from the smallest, A brief discourse concerning the three chief principles of magnificent building: solidity, convenience, and ornament by Sir Balthazar Gerbier D’ouvilly (London, 1662), measuring 14.2 cm x 9.5 cm x 0.8 cm, to Sulpiz Boissere’s Histoire et description de la cathdrale de Cologne (Stuttgart, 1823), a hefty tome more than a metre in height and weighing 21 kilos!

All works have been selected from the CCA collection, which comprises nearly 200,000 volumes, by the exhibition’s curator Gerald Beasley, Director of the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, and until 2004, Associate Chief Curator and Head Librarian at the CCA.