Friday, 19 April 2013

Volume 14: Libido to Mary, Duchess of Burgundy

After all attempts by their original owner to find them a new home failed, the Sidney Nolan Trust was given a set of 1950s Encyclopædia Britannica so that they could turn them into new artworks, all of which can currently be seen (until 6 May 2013) in The Old Foundry Studio & Gallery at Bewdley Museum. I found my way to Volume 14 of the set: Libido to Mary, Duchess of Burgundy. Reading through it I felt smothered by the accumulated dust of knowledge and did a few approximate word counts. They were surprising. Topping the list in the volume were 43,000 words on Logic and Logical Positivism and 38,000 words on Libraries. The entry on Man only merited 16,000 words, while Life Insurance had 8,000 and Lycanthropy over 2,000. Even Lumbago had 175 words. And Love? Not a single word. Not even an entry. I eviscerated the volume and put a few mementos and part of a letter written by a person who can continue what they are doing through the love of another. I found the following definition of ‘Encyclopædia’, from The Encyclopædia Da Costa, helpful: ‘Encyclopædias trouble themselves a great deal about words fallen into disuse, never about words still unknown, burning to be uttered.’

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