I’ve just finished a terrific conference at Loyola organized by Suzanne Gosset on “The Future of Shakespeare’s Text(s).” This photo shows a device, used by one of the conference organizers Peter Shillingsburg, to perform manual collation of printed editions of texts. There is a long tradition of using optical collators to find and identify differences in printed editions of texts; this one, the Lindstrand Comparator, works on a deviously clever principle. Exploiting a feature of the human visual system, the Lindstrand Comparator allows you to view two different pages simultaneously, with each image being fed to only one eye at a time through a series of mirrors. When the brain tries to reconcile the two disparate images — a divergence caused by print differences on the page — these textual differences will levitate on the surface of the page or, conversely, sink into it. What is in actuality a spatial disparity becomes a disparity of depth via contributions of the brain (which is clearly an integral part of the apparatus).
In this photo, Shakespeare scholar Gabriel Egan compares two variant printed editions of a modern novel. The device is an excellent example of mechanical-optical technology being used to assist in the iterative tasks of scholarship — iterations we now perform with computers. It is also the only technology I know of that lets you see depth in a page, something you cannot do with hypertexts or e-readers. Maybe we should stop writing code for fancy web-pages and start working with wood and mirrors?