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"I am the author of a statement to which there have been varying reactions, including praise and blame, and which I shall make again in the present article. Briefly, it is this: all earthly existence must ultimately be contained in a book."1

Stephane Mallarmé


The starting point for the project hereon described is a text by Stéphane Mallarmé originally titled Le Livre, Instrument Spiritual. Written in 1895 in a period where the logic of book production still attached to a classic model (the old typography) as thought by Jan Tschichold, Mallarmé's text incites (precisely) the questioning of its maintenance and appealing to a future reformulation/subversion of its principles. Besides condemning the strict subordination of the page the a central axis of justification, which seemed to originate a symmetric structure, Mallarmé disapproved of the metaphoric corset that binds both the content of a book and the reader to a mechanic, monotonous reading, dominated by a predictable rhythm. Mallarmé defended the materialization of text free from formal conventions, an idea he himself put to practice in his paradigmatic poem: Un Coup de dés jamais n'abolira le hasard. But his concern with the book spread much further than what was the configuration of a text. How the author reflected on this matter was in part motivated by the analysis of another graphic specimen greatly developed in his time: the newspaper. Disposable and perishable in nature, the newspaper defied its obvious destiny in a mass of chaotic, unrefined printed matter, and was extremely accessible thanks to the mass circulation. It was important to turn the book into a one of a kind medium — a platform for creative liberty — capable of appealing to the multidisciplinary interests of the modern public (and at last, capable of resisting to the newspaper's democratization). Despite the clear vicissitudes typical of its time, Mallarmé's text can and should be used as motto for investigating a book (in its form, structure, content, reading, etc.) with no disregard towards the book as the clearly superior editorial object in the field of Communication Design.


1 Lupton, Ellen (1996); Mixing Messages: Graphic Design in Contemporary Culture; New York: Princeton Architectural Press.