Trade is to culture as sex is to biology

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Matt Ridley has a fascinating piece in the Wall Street Journal about humanity’s secret weapon against the rest of the apes: collective intelligence, born from its willingness to trade and communicate outside the tribe. The exchange of goods and ideas between groups in close proximity led to an acceleration of cultural and technological innovation which has echoes to this day.

A librarian’s button collection

Esopus is contemporary culture, as curated by Tod Lippy. His twice yearly magazine is a sometime baffling, sometimes wondrous collection of what’s caught his eye (and ear, since each issue contains a CD of original music) in the preceding six months. Issue 13, from Fall 2009 contained photos of the button collection of Yale’s fastidious rare books librarian, just deceasd in 2009.

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Her passion for organization clearly extended beyond her nine-to-five, as evidenced by the meticulous labelling and sorting of the buttons. The delighter in Tod’s 10-page presentation of the collection was a real button, stapled to the first page.

Odes to the ABCs

The publishers of Lettering & Type invited sundry designs for their thoughts on the letters of the English alphabet. Though they’re all interesting, the delighter in the bunch might be Jennifer Daniel’s take on poor, misunderstood “D” and how it might be redesigned.