The End of Books, 1894


More illustrations from Albert Robida, and a riposte to anyone thinking that the idea of the end of books is a recent thing. This article by bibliophile Octave Uzanne appeared in Volume 16 of Scribner’s Magazine (July–December 1894). The piece opens with a description of various scientists and artists at a Royal Society evening making predictions about life in the future. Among other proposals there’s that old saw of science fiction, the meal of condensed nutrients which would supposedly put an end to world hunger. Uzanne’s account of the future of the book involves authors speaking their works into recording devices. Despite Robida’s somewhat comic extrapolations Uzanne seemed to have been semi-serious; even if he wasn’t he made a good job of predicting audio books, and (after a fashion) television: those wanting illustrations would have images projected by one of Edison’s Kinetoscopes.

There will be registering cylinders as light as celluloid penholders, capable of containing five or six hundred words and working up on very tenuous axles, and occupying not more than five square inches; all the vibrations of the voice will be reproduced in them; we shall attain to perfection in this apparatus as surely as we have obtained precision in the smallest and most ornamental watches.

As to the electricity, that will often be found in the individual himself. Each will work his pocket apparatus by a fluent current ingeniously set in action; the whole system may be kept in a simple opera-glass case, and suspended by a strap from the shoulder.

As for the book, or let us rather say, for by that time books “will have lived,” as for the novel, or the storyograph, the author will become his own publisher. To avoid imitations and counterfeits he will be obliged, first of all, to go to the Patent-Office, there to deposit his voice, and register its lowest and highest notes, giving all the counter-hearings necessary for the recognition of any imitation of his deposit. The Government will realize great profits by these patents.

The full article may be read here.












Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The illustrators archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Le Vingtième Siècle by Albert Robida
La Vie Électrique by Albert Robida
The Mysterious Explorations of Jasper Morello
Technology, then and now

4 thoughts on “The End of Books, 1894”

  1. Robida seemed more open than some contemporaries to the downside of future technology, however comical the expression. One of his later books shows air disasters and the effects of pollution, among other things.

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