Vol. 1, Issue 5
December 14, 2006


1) The Bodies of Books
2) Orion
3) Bible Sunday

Note the links to the SCHOLEGIUM archives at the end. I hope you find something to enjoy in this bouquet of musings.



There are two great antitheses in the world of book bodies: the hardback/paperback one and the glued/sewn one. A well-made book will have both a hard cover (ideally with cloth stretched over it) and sewn binding (look at the top or bottom of the spine of most good hardbacks and you'll see that the pages are sewn in clumps called "signatures" and you can find the stitching in the middle of each clump, every dozen or twenty pages or so). One the other hand, most paperbacks have a flimsy cardboard cover and the pages are cut and glued individually (actually in one giant communistic clump) into a bed of, well, glue. But then there are combinations: there are paperback-covered books sewn in signatures (also called Smyth binding) and this is not bad (Dover used to do this); but there are also hardbacks which have glued pages - and this is Very Bad.

A paperback sewn in signatures is like a Prince in common clothing, but a glued hardback is like a chimney sweep in royal robes. A paperback with Smyth binding is like a simple house on a solid stone foundation, while a hardback with glued pages is like a brand-new coat of paint on a termite-infested shack. A paperback with glued binding is like a steak wrapped in tin foil while a glued hardback is like being served a hotdog at the finest French restaurant. If you simply must have one or the other, then it's better by far to have the Prince in overalls, the solid foundation under the cottage, the steak in foil - the paperback with sewn binding. BUT.. how much better to have both!! To have the Prince sweeping by in his festal finery, the stone foundation under the mansion, the best prime rib on, well, a greasy oak table in a smokey pub with a pint of dark ale, of course. And the hardback cloth-covered book with sewn binding.

I do, of course, have many paperbacks with glued bindings, because I wanted the content so badly that I willingly sacrificed my desire for a more pleasing exterior. But this doesn't mean that I think the bodies of books don't matter. "We Ain't No Stinkin' Gnostics" (tm) and the physical realm does indeed matter. The clothes you wear make a difference, the posture of your body in prayer and worship makes a difference, the setting of the table makes a difference, and so do the bodies of books.



The two brightest stars in Orion are Betelgeuse, the bright star marking the giant's left shoulder (from our perspective), and Rigel, marking his right foot. Betelgeuse is not pronounced "beetle juice" but "bet-el-jooz". The word is probably a corruption of the Arabic for "arm of the giant" or something similiar. Rigel means "foot", not too surprisingly. If you watch the two stars and compare their color you'll note Betelgeuse's distinctive red and Rigel's blue-white. Betelgeuse is far the larger and in fact is one of the very largest stars known. In fact, it's so huge that if it were in the place of our sun, it's surface would be beyond the orbit of Mars! And remember, Mars' orbit is outside of ours, so guess where we'd be....



In the Church of England (and Episcopalian) Book of Common Prayer, the prayers used on Sundays are called "collects" and the collects are used all the following week. The collect for the second Sunday in Advent (this past Sunday) says, "Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen."

This collect, coming from 1549 and reflecting the new Reformation interest in having all the people know the Scriptures, has given rise to the name "Bible Sunday" for the second Sunday in Advent. As late as the middle part of the 20th century, this name was common not only in Anglican/Episcopalian circles but in all of Protestantism. The word "all" in the opening clause hints at Thomas Cranmer's determination, reflected in the structure of the Book of Common Prayer, that the people should be able, by use of the BCP, to read through the whole Bible every year.