Pet Book Report #8: The Dragon Prayer Book as an Interactive Object
As an object, the Dragon Prayer Book invites the reader to interact with it; to open its clasps and touch the well-worn spots on its parchment pages, to turn its tabbed pages and to feel the tooling on its binding. This week, we discussed comb poems as a form of material writing. Comb poems, specifically combs which have been inscribed with verse, require their user to interact with them in order to appreciate the comb’s (and perhaps the poem’s) purpose. Similarly, the Dragon Prayer Book requires its reader to make use of its features as an object– its binding, its tabs, its clasps, and its pages. Without its physicality (for example, if the book was just its pages, as it is on the prayer book website), an understanding of how the Dragon Prayer Book may have been used as an object is lost. The Dragon Prayer Book is as much the relationship of its body with its written contents as is the comb poem.
Without a reader, the prayer book is less than. Just as the parchment pages must be touched by human hands to retain their vitality, the prayer book as an object needs a user to interact with it, for it is that relationship between object and user which defines the object and its purpose. Because of its size, the Dragon Prayer Book acts as a religious token which can be carried on one’s person, close to the body. The book’s covers alone are a sort of talisman, stamped with the crucifixion to which the user can press their fingertips as a religious reminder. Because the prayer book is so small, we know that one of its purposes was portability– something which we might not have known had we not been able to interact with the book as an material object.
The prayer book instructs readers to sing with the abbreviation for the word “antiphon,” and the short pieces of sheet music signal to the reader which notes are to be sung. With its tabs, the prayer book instructs readers to focus on the most often read or most important pages, and the bright red accent on certain letters draws the reader’s eye to significant words and phrases. Ultimately, the prayer book has been designed to be used frequently by the reader, with its purpose seeming to be its usability (like a comb poem, but not necessary like a poesy ring, which more often has a solely decorative purpose). Unlike a comb poem, no words are written on the outside of the prayer book. So, like most other books, the reader must first open the cover to access the written word inside. On a tangent, this motion is lost with the digital reader and the image slideshow on the prayer book website. The trouble with digitizing the prayer book is representing the prayer book as a three-dimensional object, as the size and features of the prayer book are difficult to show with images alone.