Read The End Of Books Online

Authors: Octave Uzanne

The End Of Books (2 page)

“Very well, very well,” cried my attentive companions, “but the practical side of this? How do you suppose that we shall succeed in making phonographs at once portable enough, light enough, and sufficiently resisting to register long romances which, at present, contain four or five hundred pages, without getting out of order; upon what cylinders of hardened wax will you stereotype the articles and news items of journalism; finally, with the aid of what sort of piles will you generate the electric motors of your future phonograph ? All this is to be explained, and it does not appear to us easy to make it practical.”

“Nevertheless it will all be done,” I replied. “There will be registering cylinders as light as celluloid penholders, capable of containing five or six hundred words and working upon very tenuous axles, and occupying not more than five square inches; all the vibrations of the voice will be reproduced in them; we shall attain to perfection in this apparatus as surely as we have obtained precision in the smallest and most ornamental watches.

“As to the electricity, that will often be found in the individual himself. Each will work his pocket apparatus a fluent current ingeniously set in action; the whole system may be kept in a simple opera-glass case, and suspended by a strap from the shoulder.

“As for the book, or let us rather say, for by that time books ‘will have lived,’ as for the novel, or the storyograph, the author will become his own publisher. To avoid imitations and counterfeits he will be obliged, first of all, to go to the Patent-Office, there to deposit his voice, and register its lowest and highest notes, giving all the counter-hearings necessary for the recognition of any imitation of his deposit,. The Government will realize great profits by these patents.

The Author Depositing his Voice at the Patent-Office, to Prevent Counterfeiting.

Having thus made himself right with the law, the author will talk his work, fixing it upon registering cylinders. He will himself put these patented cylinders on sale ; they will be delivered in cases for the consumption of hearers.

“Men of letters will not be called Writers in the time soon to be, but rather. Narrators. Little by little the taste for style and for pompously decorated phrases will die away, but the art of utterance will take on unheard-of importance. Certain Narrators will be sought out for their fine address, their contagious sympathy, their thrilling warmth, and the perfect accuracy, the fine punctuation of their voice.

The Author Making Cylinders of his Own Works.

“The ladies will no longer say in speaking of a successful author, ‘What a charming writer!’ All shuddering with emotion, they will sigh, ‘Ah, how this “Teller’s” voice thrills you, charms you, moves you ! What adorable low tones, what heart-rending accents of love! When you hear his voice you are fairly exhausted with emotion. There is no ravisher of the ear like him!’“

My friend James Whittemore interrupted me. “And what will become of the libraries, dear friend, and of the books?”

The Binding of the Future (Tubes de luxe.)

“Libraries will be transformed into phonographotecks, or rather, phonostereoteks; they will contain the works of human genius on properly labelled cylinders, methodically arranged in little cases, rows upon rows, on shelves. The favorite editions will be the autophonographs of artists most in vogue; for example, every one will be asking for Coquelin’s ‘Molière,’ Irving’s ‘Shakespeare,’ Salvini’s ‘Dante,’ Eleonora Duse’s ‘Dumas
fils
,’ Sara Bernhardt’s ‘Hugo,’ Mounet Sully’s ‘Balzac;’ while Goethe, Milton, Byron, Dickens, Emerson, Tennyson, Musset, and others will have been ‘vibrated upon cylinders by favorite Tellers.’

“The bibliophiles, who will have become phonographiles, will still surround themselves with rare works; they will send out their cylinders to be bound in morocco cases, adorned with fine gildings and symbolic figures, as in former days. The titles will be imprinted on the circumference of the case, and the most exquisite cases will contain cylinders specially copyrighted, editions of a single copy, in the voice of a master of the drama, of poetry, or of music, giving impromptu and unpublished variants of celebrated works.

The Voice from Scotland

“The Narrators, blithe authors that they will be, will relate the current events of current life, will make a study of rendering the sounds that accompany-sometimes with ironical effect. like an orchestration of Nature-the exchange of commonplace conversation, the joyful exclamations of assembled crowds, the dialects of strange people. The evocations of the Marseillais or the Auvergnats will amuse the French as the jargon of the Irishman and the Westerner will excite the laughter of Americans of the East.

Manufacturing Books.

“Authors who are not sensitive to vocal harmonies, or who lack the flexibility of voice necessary to a fine utterance. will avail themselves of the services of hired actors or singers to warehouse their work in the accommodating cylinder. We have to-day our secretaries and copyists ; there will then be ‘phonists’ and ‘clamists’ to interpret utterances dictated by the creator of literature.

Phonographic Literature for the Promenade.

“Hearers will not regret the time when they were readers ; with eyes unwearied, with countenances refreshed, their air of careless freedom will witness to the benefits of the contemplative life. Stretched upon sofas or cradled in rocking-chairs, they will enjoy in silence the marvellous adventures which the flexible tube will conduct to ears dilated with interest.

“At home, walking, sightseeing, these fortunate hearers will experience the ineffable delight of reconciling hygiene with instruction; of nourishing their minds while exercising their muscles; for there will be pocket phono-opera-graphs, for use during excursions among Alpine mountains or in the canons of the Colorado.”

“Your dream is most aristocratic,” interposed Julius Pollock, the humanitarian;” the future will be more democratic. I should like to see the people more favored.”

“They will be, my gentle poet,” I replied, gayly, going on to develop my vision of the future; “nothing will be lacking for them on this head; they may intoxicate themselves on literature as on pure water, and as cheaply, too, for there will then be fountains of literature in the streets as there are now hydrants.

The Automatic Library

“At every open place in the city little buildings will be erected, with hearing tubes corresponding to certain works easily worked by the mere pressure of a button. On the other side, a sort of automatic book-dealer, set in motion by a nickel in the slot, will for this trifling sum give the works of Dickens, Dumas
père,
or Longfellow, on long rolls all prepared for home consumption.

“I go even farther: the author who desires personally to bring his work to the public knowledge after the fashion of the
trouvères
of the Middle Ages, carrying them about from house to house, may draw a modest but always remunerative profit by renting to all the inmates of the same apartment-house a sort of portable organ, which may be slung over the shoulder, composed of an infinite number of small tubes connected with his auditory shop, by means of which his works may be wafted through the open windows to the ears of such lodgers as hung all around for the benefit the studious passer-by. They will of may desire amusement in a moment of be leisure, or cheer in an hour of solitude.

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