I find, as I re-enter childhood after retirement, that several books or films have completely shaped my life. I didn't necessarily realize it at the time, of course (though sometimes I did). I cannot overstate my gratitude to these works.
Wahl, Jan. Illus. by Fernando Krahn. The Furious Flycycle. NY: Dell, 1968.
"The Professor's laboratory was cluttered with gorgeous machines. Magnets. Leather pulleys. Rotating fans. Drill presses. Lathes. Generators. A dynamo. Melvin felt immediately at home, wishing he never had to leave.
"At the end of the laboratory stood an electric player piano with lighted-up windows, featuring pictures of yellow ducks and white geese swimming on a pure blue pond. The piano was playing in ragtime."
Shute [Norway], Nevil. Trustee from the Toolroom. NY: William Morrow & Co., 1960.
"Here he made models, and here he wrote about them weekly for the Miniature Mechanic, a magazine with a considerable circulation in the lower ranks of industry and with a growing popularity amongst eccentric doctors, stockbrokers, and bank managers who just liked engineering but didn't know much about it. All his life he had made models, little steam engines, little petrol engines, little speedboats, little locomotives, little Diesels. He was a considerable horologist; in his time he had made many clocks with motions of antiquarian interest and had written full directions for constructing them, always in the Miniature Mechanic. He had made little beam engines which would have delighted James Watt and still delighted those who are fascinated by such things; he had made little jet engines which would have delighted Frank Whittle. He had made pumps and boilers and carillons that played a tune, all in the minature scale. He was a quick worker and a ready writer upon technical matters and he delighted in making little things that worked. He had now ordered his life that he need do nothing else."
Bach, Richard. "Found at Pharisee" / "School for Perfection." A Gift of Wings. NY: Delacorte Press, 1974.
Underhill, Roy. The Woodwright's Shop. Chapel Hill, NC: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1981.
The insidious idea in Bach's two stories isn't the suggestion that perfection is possible, or even that it should be a goal. Rather, it's the notion that one might attain this goal by completely re-living the history of a technology.
Hofstadter, Douglas. Gödel, Escher, Bach: an eternal golden braid. NY: Basic Books, 1979.
This book taught me the methods of formal systems and the deep intertwingling of the arts and sciences. It was in part the reason why my undergraduate degree was a double major in Literature and Computer Programming, and why my dissertation was halfway between the two. It was also the first exposure I had to type as an object in its own right.
Kegler, Richard. Making Faces: Metal Type in the 21st Century. Buffalo, NY: P22 Type Foundry, 2011.
This film is a study of the work of the late Canadian type-maker Jim Rimmer.
As I watched a pre-release of this film at the 2016 American Typecasting Fellowship Conference, I thought to myself "Well, [expletive]. There goes my old life. I must now change, and attempt to accomplish everything that this man has accomplished."
Official trailer on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ph0ooDzD4ZQ
I didn't know when I was ten that the Furious Flycycle would lead to something over fifty tons of cast iron in support of Fine Typography, but in retrospect it has been inevitable. Ragtime is still my favorite music.
All of the texts and images cited and excerpted here are in copyright. These excerpts should, I believe, qualify under the doctrine of "Fair Use" in US copyright law as these are reviews. I hope that they induce you to go out and purchase these works.
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