Robert Cotton, and Eddie Campbell

I have owned Eddie Campbell’s The Fate of the Artist since well before I even began researching Cotton’s Library, I believe.

Yet it only struck me today how some of Campbell’s eccentric archivist habits are so reminiscent of Cotton:

“But they were more than just clippings to him.” It’s the wife’s turn again. “He was ordering the universe. Or that’s what he thought. Sometimes he’d cut pages out of one book and transfer them to another. We’ve got a three-volume illustrated medical encyclopedia. You’ll be looking up the common cold and suddenly there will be a hole in the page because there was an eighteenth-century skit on cowpox on the reverse. Or some perfectly useful information on diet during pregnancy will have been sacrificed to the priority of filing a reproduction of a French phrenological lithograph where it will make more sense only to Campbell.

“He’d cut them to fit, because he was a neatness fanatic, but you’d think a true neatness nut would want the pages in the book they came in.

By Campbell’s time there were things like photocopiers, scanners, and printers, so cutting up books seems rather less necessary to indulge this obsession. Though, on the other hand, because of printing I presume that all of the volumes involved were mass produced printed books, rather than the unique manuscripts which Cotton often carved up.

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