Bureaucracy : Resisting

Resisting

Resistance to the systematizing drive of bureaucracy comes in many shapes; its traces can be seen in forms filled out incompletely or overabundantly, documents crumpled up in a ball, reference books dismantled or never finished, and catalogues amended or corrected with manuscript notes. Beyond resistance that comes with use, some printed objects are designed and produced with the specific purpose of contesting the work of bureaucracy and exposing its more pernicious tendencies. Illegible dictionaries, fantastical encyclopedias, philosophical satires and bureaucratic fictions—these works draw attention to the way bureaucracy homogenizes, oppresses, and eventually destroys the people and things caught in its web.

It has been categorized as one of the strangest books ever published. A nonsensical art book with a surrealist vision. Grotesque, yet disturbingly beautiful, it commands a mix of wonder, awe and frustration. Originally published in two volumes by the Italian publisher Franco Maria Ricci in 1981, Codex Seraphinianus is an illustrated encyclopedia of an imaginary world, conceived and created by artist and designer Luigi Serafini (1949-) between 1976 and 1978. The copy of the Codex acquired by UNT is a facsimile reprint of the original, published as part of a 1993 single-volume edition. 

(Click on any image to read more about this item.)

The Smallest English Dictionary, published around 1900 by the active Scottish press David Bryce & Son, is a miniature book measuring 1⅛ x ¾ inches (27 x 20 mm). It has 384 gilt-edged pages, and was bound in maroon morocco by Zaehnsdorf of London (UNT Library). The volume reportedly contains 13,000 definitions set in 1½ point type. In its miniature format and voluminous content, The Smallest English Dictionary enacts bureaucratic functions while simultaneously subverting them.

(Click on the image to read more about this item.)

This small “dictionary” cannot properly be called an original work by Voltaire (1694-1778), although the words are, for the most part, his own. It was compiled by an American editor and illustrator, Paul McPharlin, and pulls material from Voltaire’s Dictionnaire philosophique (1764) and Questions sur l'Encyclopédie (1770). McPharlin’s Satirical Dictionary is thus a compilation and condensation of Voltaire’s writings from several sources, all satirical in nature but not explicitly so. 

(Click on any image to read more about this item.)

This 1853 edition of Bleak House by Charles Dickens represents the first publication of the novel in the form of a single book. Like most of Dickens’s fictional works, Bleak House was initially serialized. It was distributed to readers in 20 separate installments (19 individual issues, the last containing the final two increments) between March of 1852 and September of 1853. This edition of the novel was published by Bradbury and Evans and dedicated to the “Guild of Literature and Art.” 

(Click on any image to read more about this item.)

This first edition of Herman Melville’s short story collection The Piazza Tales was published by Dix and Edwards in 1856.  With the exception of the story “The Piazza,” all of the stories were originally published in the magazine Putnam’s Monthly.  Joshua Dix (a former employee of Arthur Putnam) and Arthur Edwards had purchased that magazine in 1855, with the new book and magazine publishers working to maintain the successes of their predecessors.

(Click on any image to read more about this item.)