Friday, April 1, 2011

The Information

Sounds like The Donald, eh? The March 20, 2011 issue of The New York Times Book Review had a review of The Information. A History, by James Gleick. Geoffrey Nunberg's review includes some great, well, information from Gleick's book (bold callouts are mine):
In a series of chapters, Gleick recounts oft-told tales about the invention of writing systems and the compilation of the Oxford English Dictionary along with the stories of lesser-known structures of coding and communication. In the late 18th century, long before Samuel Morse, for example, the Chappe brothers of France invented the first "telegraph" in the form of a network of hundreds of towers topped by semaphore arms with which the government could relay messages from Paris to Bordeaux in less than a day, weather permitting. One French deputy described the Chappes' ingenious signaling system as one of the great inventions of history, along with the compass, printing, and gunpowder. And once the Chappes' optical telegraph had been replaced by the more democratic and versatile electric version, frugal customerrs hit on the similarly ingenious expedient of using economical abbreviations for common messages, like "gmlet" for "give my love to" —texting avant la lettre.

Is that cool or what?


Noah Dziobecki said...

Love the cover design!

Suzanne Dell'Orto said...


Ironically, there's a cool "reprint" of a 1928 brochure about how to write telegrams properly on this website:

And yes, those James Gleick books always have good covers! (I'm thinking of his book Faster).

Beth Tondreau said...

The intro to the 1928 brochure is notable for declaring that telegrams used to be more calamity and tragedy and now (which means "then") are used for news of a less dire nature. Phones, e-mail, and Twitter seem(ed) to follow the same path.

On another note, I have to ask my friend in Paris if she uses LOL or RDF (rire dehors fort).


On to-do list: learn the name of the jacket/cover designer of The Information.

Beth Tondreau said...

Jacket designer: Peter Mendelsund

Suzanne Dell'Orto said...

Translations of LOL...?

Chip Kidd and Jamie Keenan did the ones I show in class:
Hard to choose which one I like better.

Beth Tondreau said...

Re the translations: I love the MDR (mort de rire) which is, it seems, being replaced in France by LOL. So, does that mean LOL is now iconic as opposed to acronymic?