Cărţi şi proprietari – un binom simbolic sau despre statutul donatorului

Books and owners, a simbolic binome or about the status of the donator

Autor: Ioan Oros


As suggested by the subtitle of my thesis (Dimensions of the Modern Culture in the Silvania County, XVIIth and the XIXth century. Books and owners), from the perspective of the economy of symbolic exchanges or the „economy of gift giving” (P. Bourdieu), with the taboo of mentioning the price, but also from that of Paul Ricoeur’s historical epistemology, in which the concept of the gift is applied to the question of forgiveness, the author approaches the matter of the status and place of the donator in the book-society relation, from the point of view of the ownership. The annotation is a marquer of the ownership, being its written expression and this is even more the case of those annotations that, in an explicit or implicit manner, register the „book bargain”. According to the author, „the book bargain” as a ceremonial part from the life of a book, situated between the „celebration of writing” and the „celebration of reading” involves the existence of two types of itineraries of the book: an economic one (the juridical part) and a symbolic one (the ritual).

From the moment when from a buyer the owner becomes a donator and the book is ritually invested under the sanction (interdiction) that „ not even the donator should ever touch it” (Biblie, Blaj,1795, ex. bis. Unimăt), in the book-ownership relation the border between the symbolic and juridical state is crossed, the donator becoming just a symbolic owner of the book, just like the rest of the community. This can be noticed as well from the point of view of the reading act: generally, the only people reading from the book are the clergy men and the donators that are not part of the community are even less physically attached to the book they are donating. Since the physical connection with the book is rather a sign of private property, the lack of such a connection implies a symbolic one and the investment through the institution of gift giving is the kind that creates symbolic capital.

Through the structure of the holographic paratext, a first stratification of the social agents involved in the book bargain can be drowned. Out of all these categories, those including the scripters, the donators, the witnesses and the colporteurs have a well defined part in the context of the book bargain, while the rest of the people mentioned in other contexts from the structure of the annotations, most of them without any direct roles (but book owners or beneficiaries) are included in the category called „social identities”.

This leads to the conclusion that through its value of an „eternal good” and through its adoration function within the community, the book is situated above any economic evaluation.

However, going back to the juridical stage of the „book bargain”, an important element in analyzing the annotations was the price and the pricing of the book in the context of the book-society relation, at the level of the parishes, church and family. Semantically, the term „pricing” has two meanings that can be found in the annotations: one that can be included in a „symbolic axiology”, referring to the moral attitude of respect towards books and a second one – an economic attitude concerning the value of a thing (in this case the book), expressed in a coin and materialized in a price for which it could be sold or bought as a merchandise (product).

According to the studies in the field, an economic analysis of the prices for buying / selling old Romanian books, including those from Silvania county, performed in comparison to the general situation from that period of time from Transilvania and even from the other Romanian provinces, concerning the monetary circulation and the type of payment used (money, cereal, animals, wax, etc.) allows a more precise quantification of the social and religious solidarities instituted, making thus possible a more adequate estimation of the human effort (personal or collective) involved in the act of donation in general.

As the results were, from this point of view, rather similar for Silvania county as well, the author oriented the research towards certain dimensions of the matter that have been less analyzed, such as the aspects concerning the ethical value of the financial investment in the act of donation reflected in the annotations, according to an economy of symbolic goods in which „the effort is for work what gift is for commerce” (P. Bourdieu). On this occasion, the author noticed the variety of the idioms used to define the attributes „selfless” or „effort” from an economy of gift giving, revealing, at the same time, the moral investments in the donnation, through the nature of the payment, the honest way of gaining the money equivalent and the ethical values of the transaction done with the colporteur.

The author notes the fact that 40% of the total of the annotations mention donations for churches, in the majority of cases, the price of the acquisition being specified, one way or another. The computer analysis of the annotations allows the ordering of the prices according to the type of book, period of time, typography or origin. By this last parameter, the symbolic capital of a parish could be reconstituted and estimated (with examples from two localities), the thesaurus of books of the community which, together with the other religious ornaments (clothes, liturgical objects) constituting the ritual dowry of the community, both at the beginning of canonical visit (in 1776) and towards the end of the period of time representing the object of this research (1876); both registering a maximum of 15 liturgical books.

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