In Manguel’s A Brief History of the Page, he tells us how the page evolved in structure over time for the reader as well as the writer. The page dictates the space in which text was received but the page also created certain “limitations.” Mangel explains that, “Whether through shape, interior space, marginalia, or reshuffling, the page’s characteristics were to be constantly altered” (p. 123). As soon as these limitations were recognized readers and writers wanted to create change within the page’s format so that the page and its text would answer only to them.
As Manguel said the page was simply a vehicle for new textual innovations of presentation. Readers found this newfound freedom within the structure of the page as print distribution evolved. Manguel defines a page as a “…skeleton supporting the skin of a text…” (p. 121). The page is essential to the structure of a text but it is rarely recognized as nothing more than an innovation from a tree. According to this definition he for certain reasons recognizes that the Sumerians made the first page from clay. These pages were made to allow text to be transportable as well as suspenseful. Manguel goes into further detail of how these clay tablets were used as a two-sided page, which made it difficult for the reader to gain control of the text. This was an example of how the page changed its shape as time passed.
The text of the page has also changed into become something new entirely. The page’s contextual environment changes quickly according to the text that is printed on it. A change in text led to a change also in how the reader read the text. For example, a page can have more than one use for just words but also for the use of grids, charts, or maps. This changes the pages purpose entirely.
And as the purpose and format of page is being altered so was the relationship between the reader and the text being affected. The page changes shape, format, and purpose over time but as time passed the structure of the lines changed that still allowed for the reader to have conversation with the text within the space of the page. Manguel says, “…between the edge of the paper and the edge of the ink, the reader …can cause a quiet revolution and establish a new society in which the creative tension is established no longer between page and text but between text and reader” (p. 125). Through the reflection of the text the reader can acquire knowledge where the writer left space for involvement of the reader.
I read this text because it was shorter but there were a few things I wanted to clarify. Manguel discusses the transitioning format, text, and purpose of paper but also harps on its new meaning. I do not understand how the creation of a codex does that. And on page 122 Manguel says, “The appearance of the codex lends a new meaning to the concept of page.” What does Manguel mean codex is supposed to be in this context? Is it the book or entire product of the page itself? Also, I did not know what Manguel meant when he said, “Widows, hanging lines, irritants to the eye, have caused printers to suggest to the author changes…so that the text itself is altered to fit the demands of the page’s tyranny” (p. 123). How can this change of text be subjected to the page’s intended meaning and not the author’s?