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The Rebirth of the Library: Part 1
Behind the initiative of starting Codex.
Over the past year, I’ve been studying the techniques of classical artists and I’ve discovered how fragile even valuable information can be.
Even with the internet providing us with access to almost everything, there are still many texts and other materials that have yet to be digitized and studied. However, digitizing material doesn’t always solve everything. Sometimes it can make things even worse. How do you weed out what is useful from what isn’t when even search engines and AI are not always reliable? Great books can become unknown for many reasons. For one, they lack marketing departments working tirelessly to ensure their success (something newer books tend to enjoy). Hence why we see the same books time and time again being recommended.
The Threat of Loss
Books can live—or they can die. Some manuscripts have died because they were lost to antiquity, others to war and conquest. But books can also perish for less violent reasons, like never leaving their mother tongue or ceasing to be reprinted. As is the case with Luca Paciolli’s La Divina Propocione, an important work in mathematics and the only published work to feature illustrations by Leonardo da Vinci. But good luck finding an English translation. It was not until last spring while reading classic books on art that I could clearly see what we could lose if we don’t act swiftly. That’s when we started to look at our growing collection of rare and out-of-print books and began to think about a new kind of digital library: Codex.
In most digital libraries, everything and anything can be added. There is hardly, if any, constraint of space. On the other hand, museums, such as the Louvre and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, have another approach. They curate. They have a standard and philosophy to uphold. This is more aligned with the philosophy behind Codex. Not everything will make it to the library. So then what kind of books will make it to Codex and what kind of people do we hope to attract?
We know Codex may not be for everyone. Our library will select primarily unknown books that have made notable and important contributions to the fields of art, literature, science, math, and philosophy. None of your typical bestsellers. We wish to attract people who are seeking knowledge for knowledge’s sake. Although we’re selecting books for their individual merit, we are also selecting them as chapters of a larger book. One that inspires human curiosity and the pursuit of higher knowledge and a love for craftsmanship.
With Codex, our mission is to leverage the latest technologies to protect and distribute the most valuable of human intellectual work for future generations.
I’d like to address the skeptics in the audience. Many of them may be wondering why build another library? Are there not plenty of libraries around the world that could easily digitize their collection? Aren’t you just rebranding the Internet Archive? What makes Codex so special? While there are certainly better equipped libraries with far more resources than us that could be doing what we’re doing, they are not (as far as we know). Given the nature of the task, we see ourselves partnering with these established institutions in the future. We count ourselves among the Internet Archives’ biggest users. However, they prove our point for the need of curation.
Here’s what Codex has done so far:
We have 100+ books that we plan on scanning
We made “Pictures Drawn in One Stroke” available to Matchbook collectors
We’ve been providing a “quiet place” on Twitter
We launched Codex Substack
Working with strategists to map what’s next for Codex
Codex was born in Florence, a city that is a testament to the advances and prosperity that a society can make when it recognizes that money can be a tool to enrich culture. But more importantly, a society that seeks the knowledge of those before and desires to make its own contributions worthy.
And it all starts with a curated and vibrant library.
Furthermore, it’s important to note how Codex began, as it foreshadows our mission to bridge the latest technologies with the classical world. The Codex library is only a hint of what lies beyond. Our vision is far more ambitious. You may have questions. We do too. So we hope you come along for the journey. ⚜
February 24, 2023