Designer Scott Boms recently donated designer Quentin Fiore’s hand-annotated mechanical (in publishing, a mechanical is like a prototype for the book) of Marshall McLuhan’s The Medium is the Massage to Letterform Archive in San Francisco and let us all have a look:
I acquired this after the passing of Marshall’s wife Corinne as we were cleaning out the McLuhan home in Wychwood Park in Toronto. It was stuffed in a cardboard box in the basement and long forgotten…. The story goes that Marshall made barely any edits to Fiore and Agel‘a proposal, including the typo in the name of the book itself, though there are a handful of written annotations through this mechanical.
Kelli added a bit more background to the famous story about the title (from the McLuhan estate’s website):
“Why is the title of the book The Medium is the Massage and not The Medium is the Message? The title is a mistake. After the book came back from the typesetter’s, it had on the cover ‘Massage’. The title was supposed to read The Medium is the Message, but the typesetter made an error. After McLuhan saw the typo, he exclaimed, ‘Leave it alone! It’s great, and right on target!’ Thus, there are four readings for the last word of the title, all of them accurate: Message and Mess Age, Massage and Mass Age.”
(As the Oblique Strategies tell us: “Honor thy error as a hidden intention.”)
SH Where did the title come from?
QF From McLuhan. What McLuhan intended by “massage” is that technology takes over us completely. To some people this seemed demeaning: to think that a piece of junk like a television or computer can change their lives. I mean, they couldn’t understand how man fashioned the shovel, and then the shovel proceeded to fashion man. Many people can’t stomach this.