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The Written Image: Fallen Books

Books are earthquake proof," proclaim Melissa Dubbin and Aaron S. Davidson in Fallen Books, a collection of photographs from earthquake-rattled libraries, published by the Paris-based independent Onestar Press in 2008. The image above is a photograph of the stacks inside San Benito County Free Library after an earthquake measuring 5.5 on the Richter Scale (significantly weaker than the earthquake in

Haiti on January 12) struck Hollister, California, on April 8, 1961. The photos in Fallen Books, many of them taken by librarians and accompanied by the photographers' notes, are organized according to the particular earthquake's measurement on the Modified Mercalli Scale, an alternative to the Richter Scale that quantifies how strongly an earthquake affects humans and man-made objects. The 1961 earthquake that resulted in the relatively slight damage shown above measured VI (or Strong) on this alternative scale, meaning that windows, dishes, and glasses were broken and some heavy furniture was moved or overturned. Given the recent catastrophe in Haiti, such an image is a reminder not only of the durability of books but also the vulnerability of those who read them. Fallen Books will be on display at the BRIC Rotunda Gallery in Brooklyn, New York, from March 25 to May 1.

Credit: National Information Service for Earthquake Engineering, EERC, University of California in Berkeley

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