DO YOU KNOW YOUR MEISSNERS FROM YOUR MERKELS?

David J Linden, the professor of neuroscience at John Hopkins University certainly does. He’s just written a book called Touch. It has the rather beautiful subtitle: The science of hand, heart and mind. So, imagine you’re in a bookshop and you pick up a book. You hold it in your hand, weigh it perhaps. You take in the cover. Perhaps you read the blurb or look at the author photo. You look at the title: The Inelegance of the Fifty-two  Year old women who has just stabbed the Decorators, for example. What is going on in your hands other than the desire to throw such a stupidly titled book to the floor? Well, in an article in The Bookseller, Professor Linden states that

‘Meissner nerve endings are tuned to detect the form of light touch resulting from the microslip of objects along the skin’.

So when you first grip the book the Meissner nerve endings are coming into play. Meissners however cannot distinguish the finer features of objects. So if it is a beautiful book and you want to revel in the textured cover or a nice bit of embossing or you want to trace the edge of the gorgeous paper that it’s made of, that’s when the Merkels come into play. There are lots of Merkels in your tongue and lips apparently. Bit of a blessing to have them in the fingertips as well though because presumably if we didn’t we’d be gaining our aesthetic judgments of books by licking them or kissing them and bookshops would be filled with slobberers and droolers. Oh, they are already.

And by the way the book has a heat reactive cover. I for one am going to head to my nearest bookshop right now and give my Meissners and my Merkels a bit of a work out. I might even buy it.

It’s also available as an e-book but you couldn’t, could you? You just couldn’t. Not a book on touch. No, no, no, no. Your Merkels would never forgive you.

Professor Linden finishes his article with the following sentence:

If bricks and mortar stores are to survive, there must be books to delight the nerve endings of the hands as well as the mind.

What book do you own that delights the nerve endings of your hands?

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3 thoughts on “DO YOU KNOW YOUR MEISSNERS FROM YOUR MERKELS?

  1. That’s actually very interesting! Makes me suddenly aware of how I’m experiencing objects…I have a lovely old set of children’s encyclopedias (-dium?) from the 1930s – my mother’s, I think. And each cover is like engraved leather and each is full of fold-out diagrams of airships and bi-planes, a total treasure trove. Still find myself just picking one up just to feel its weight and sense that fake leather!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I’ve never thought about books and touch. Colour, yes, size and age, yes, smell, most definitely, but never touch.
    Thinking about it now, I would go back to my books from childhood – I can imagine stroking those, but I think that’s more about memories than the immediacy of the touch.
    It’s a whole new world …
    Thank you, I’ll have to start employing my Meissners!

    Liked by 1 person

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