Anthropologists study disappearing peoples; Biologists, disappearing creatures; Alex Johnson studies bookshelves, a household item following antimacassars and spitoons into memory. In the introduction to his new p-book Bookshelf, Alex describes the rapid and dramatic change in the role of the bookcase.
But is this new renaissance in bookcase design a last hurrah before books vanish into computers (as music has done) to be conjured up at the touch of a button? Or might the increasingly impressive sales of e-books herald a new chapter in home decoration? With fewer books to be housed, perhaps readers will look for more exciting ways of storing their home libraries in a mere shelf, with the bookcase becoming closer to a trophy cabinet.
In fact, when you look at the gorgeous images in the book, most of the designs cannot hold more than a few books. But what gorgeous trophy cases they are, many of which we have shown on TreeHugger, and others that have been seen on Alex's website, where he has been collecting them since 2007.
The bookshelf isn't dead, but even IKEA is changing its classic BILLY to accommodate tchotchkes instead of books. This leads to the explosion of experimentation that Alex documents, as designers are no longer working with an item of roughly fixed size and shape.
Until the Victorian era, when cheap mass produced books became available, all but the very rich had just a few very valuable books, which were an important display of status. Now as the book follows the record into oblivion, all we have are the shelves as status symbols. Alex Johnson has collected some of the most interesting and innovative ones, showing the shelf as an object of desire, with or without books.
More at Alex Johnson's Bookshelf