The current temporary exhibition at the Bodmer Foundation (Cologny, Geneva) showcases different types of readers interactions with books throughout history. I had the pleasure of co-curating this exhibition with Profs. Michel Jeanneret (University of Geneva) and Frédéric Kaplan (Digital Humanities Lab, EPFL, Switzerland). The exhibition website is now available at
lelecteuraloeuvre.boocs.ch with in-depth descriptions of all the objects presented at Cologny (only in French, for now).
The exhibition Readers at work shows how a text can be modified by its readers. It looks at the different ways they intervene in the life of a book and leave their personal mark, thus giving it a new look. This can be by making editorial choices, by adding personal notes or scholarly commentaries in the margin of the book, or indeed by illustrating or translating it. Signs of ownership of a book – coffee stains, tears – all bear witness to the text’s life. The reader manipulates, paws, bends the book, making it part of his own private space. See, for example, this book by Isaac Newton: Leibniz took possession of the volume by leaving critical notes in the margins. Moreover, as he had a habit of reading in bed at night while smoking his pipe, it is probably he who also left burn marks on several pages.
The exhibition also includes a number of interactive books and thus points out parallels between traditional book reading and digital reading. Visitors (to the exhibition and online) will have access to a great number of digital and experimental documentation via two holographic installations and an online catalogue designed to work on iPads (which can be borrowed while visiting the exhibition).