Walter Benjamin famously asserted that “that which withers in the age of mechanical reproduction is the aura of the work of art”. In his terms, the aura is that which is original or authentic about a work. Aura depends on the position of a work within a tradition and its uniqueness. Reproduction diminishes each, the argument goes.
I was looking at Books and culture [scanned copy] [find in a library] in Google with a colleague earlier. It was nice to see the ‘auratic traces’ left by the staff at the University of Michigan on the scanned copy – the cataloger’s marks, the UM perforated stamp. Maybe we will see books emerging with annotations, autographs, coffee stains: that would be good. [Lorcan Dempsey’s weblog: Aura, Google Print and digitized library books]
Much has happened since then. This last week, the University of Michigan announced MBooks, the online access system to provide access to the books scanned through their partnership arrangement with Google. Access is integrated nicely with Mirlyn, the online catalog.
Looking at this earlier, I was interested to see the image above. This is the back cover of The £1,000,000 bank-note,and other new stories,by Mark Twain [pseud.]. It certainly bears the traces of its creation!