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A librarian at the Library of Babel famously observed that "in order for a book to exist, it is sufficient that it be possible." But what is possible and impossible are not as easy to define as one might think. Until only a few decades ago, we would have declared invisible books as impossibilities. Today, however, we know that invisible books do exist, and while they have been discussed and written about, few have been put on display and none have been shown in this country.
The exhibition "Invisible Books from the Library of Babel," on view on the Main Floor, West Wing of the Golda Meir Library, January 10 - February 29, 2008, brings together for the first time in the United States nine examples of these scarce and difficult to identify artifacts. These rare books, on loan from the Library of Babel and other repositories, have been carefully researched and prepared for exhibition by UWM Special Collections Librarian Max Yela.
On view are such rare treasures as George Berkeley's 1712 defense of his theory of immaterialism, The Tendency towards Existence; the Tlönese classic Axaxaxas mlö; and the highly provocative 1932 cipher book, Combed Thunder. Also on display are works of contemporary invisible publishing, including the recently-discovered 1976 play by Samuel Beckett, Entropolis, and perhaps the most recent of invisible books, the enigmatic dream book The Colonel's Portentous Cat Unsays. This exhibition is made possible in part by a grant from Foundation Orbis Tertius.