The Discovery

In Rare Books and Special Collections at the Barber Library there is a second edition of the 1884 text Flatland: A Romance of many Dimensions by Edwin Abbott Abbott. The book is part of the Coolie Verner Collection, donated to the library from 1971 until 1986[1]. Verner also collected materials dealing with cartography, rural sociology and adult education and they comprise his fonds[2]. He began teaching adult education at UBC in 1961 and did so until 1977[3]. Cartography is a major focus of his research. Perhaps this is where Flatland may fit in. The novella is part of Verner’s private collection. You can find it here: QA699 .A13 1884

After discovering the text I was anxious to read it. The novel is about a character by the name of A Square who explains the nature of Flatland, dreams of Lineland, is visited by a strange Figure who explains to him the nature of Spaceland, with much hassle, and afterwards, Pointland is explained. When A Square deviates from the desires of the aristocrats (The Circles) and proclaims the existence of a third and possible fourth dimension he is arrested and lives out the rest of his days seeking Truth to the existence of other dimensions.

While researching the project I became aware of different reproductions of the text made by artists and filmmakers, bloggers and book designers, and I started to wonder why this book happened to become the material and the inspiration for such a response. The story itself is fascinating, and the satirical representation of Victorian social ideals doesn’t fall flat. Throughout the project I found myself deviating from the original text, even though I understand why others would want to alter the form of the text, or interpret the text in various forms with various materials. In a way, through writing a blog about the book I am also transforming the original text into something new, something like a response but also an interpretation. By doing this, Romantic Dimensions becomes another artwork dedicated to Flatland. 

Discovering the artwork of others really made me want to create something more so I also made a twitter handle (3D_Ennui) that tweets all things Flatland. Twitter can also be accessed by scrolling to the bottom right of the screen.

Also, there is a required journal and I have included my writing and design progress in photographs. This is another way the text has been transformed and translated. I have kept track of my progress and also taken notes on the text. I also thought it would be interesting to create a unique journal that evolved over the semester in order to illustrate the passing of time, in a way linking to notions of space and Flatland. Photographs can be viewed on the right hand side of your screen.

I discovered the text in late January and I’ve enjoyed it ever since. I’m actually surprised I did not cross its path before, making me wonder what else is hiding in the archives. Now, many editions later, Flatland is shelved in my own private collection. Here, I hope to show you that Flatland is a space of its own; a text that makes the world smaller in order to make the world much bigger.


1. “Coolie Verner Fonds.Memory BC. Memory BC, n.d. Web. 10 April 2015.
2. Carroll, Ann. (1991). Coolie Verner fonds. Ed. Emma Wendel (2010). PDF File. 
3. “Coolie Verner Fonds.Memory BC. Memory BC, n.d. Web. 10 April 2015.


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