Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on the Future of the Book

Recovering Piero's Pleasure: How to See a Book in an Age of Too Many Books

Roger J. Crum.

“Sometimes Piero reads his books, but at others he merely runs his eyes over them for pleasure.” This is how one contemporary described how Piero de’ Medici (1416-1469) enjoyed his collection of manuscripts in Renaissance Florence. For Piero, books were precious, rare, and enjoyable as much for their beauty as for their content. Today, by contrast, we have filled up our world, and especially our libraries, with books. Unlike Piero, we see our books as problematic because of their over abundance. Our books must either be useful, or we must find some other place for them to be, away from the crowded precincts of libraries that we jealously guard for new and “current” titles. In an information age that has failed to supplant the published volume, it has become nearly impossible to see our books with delight and to replicate Piero’s visual and sensual experience with books. Yet might it be possible to recover or at least to promote some semblance of Piero’s pleasure in our current situation? This paper/presentation provides an answer in the affirmative through a discussion of an extraordinary body of contemporary imagery by the photographer Sean Wilkinson. Wilkinson’s photographs of books present volumes in a library and elsewhere as objects of visual delight and as generative, material things that pose new possibilities for how books can be regarded and literally seen anew in the present age of too many books.


Roger J. Crum  (United States)
Graul Chair in Arts and Languages
College of Arts & Sciences
University of Dayton

Roger J. Crum, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Art History and the Graul Chair in Arts and Languages at the University of Dayton. A former member of the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ, Crum has published on topics ranging from the art and politics of Renaissance Florence to the sculpture of Degas, the paintings of Barnett Newman, and the political imagery of Fascist Italy.

  • Photographs
  • Libraries
  • Sean Wilkinson

(Virtual Presentation, English)