This Wisp of a Thing Called Civilization

by Robert Bringhurst


One hundred ten copies.

8.125 x 11.375 inches, 54 pages

$400 + shipping

(International purchasers will be
billed for additional shipping)

This Wisp of a Thing Called Civilization is a wide-ranging meditation on the relationships between language and the forms we give to it; the oral, scribal, and typographic structures with which we clothe literature; and how these forms and structures simultaneously preserve, alter, and, occasionally, degrade our understanding of what they convey. Through a close analysis of ligatured and clustered letters from 8th century Chinese calligraphy; Romanesque manuscripts; and Renaissance typography, painting, and sculpture, Bringhurst evokes the metaphor of civilization as a shared endeavor, one that is contingent on collaboration and synthesis for its survival. This idea is counterposed by examples of how war, cultural ethnocide, migration, and psychopathic despots threaten the tenuous links that allow civilization to flourish. Or, as Bringhurst puts it, “How much work it is to make a single page worth saving—and how easily an army or an air force or a mob made up of frightened or deluded human beings can destroy entire libraries, cities, and countries.”

Designed by Russell Maret, and printed and bound by him and Sarah Moody. The book is set in Gremolata, Cancellaresca Milanese, Sans Pisolino, and Iohann Titling, all of which were designed by Russell Maret. The cover ornament was engraved and cast by Ed Rayher at Swamp Press after a design of Maret’s. The text paper was handmade at the Velké Losiny papermill in the Czech Republic. The photographic illustrations were printed by Puritan Capital on Mohawk Paper. Profusely illustrated.