In 1992 publisher Kevin Begos Jr, author William Gibson and artist Dennis Ashbaugh collaborated on a project that anticipated the advent and impact of digital books. The project, titled Agrippa (A Book of the Dead), has enjoyed perhaps one of the most lively and well-documented online afterlives of any late 20th-century book, particularly for one which so few people have ever actually seen, and which so many people believe does not actually exist.
Agrippa’s not-quite-fully-realized concept consisted of a digital text (the titular free-verse poem by Gibson) that irreversibly encrypts itself during the first reading, making it subsequently inaccessible, paired with light-reactive etchings that mutated over time, all presented in a book whose only text was a repeated string of DNA code. Agrippa was published, but not exactly as promised at the time or described since.
About Agrippa... consists of a main article (approx. 10,000 words) recounting the initial plans for Agrippa’s physical parts, and detailed descriptions of (and differences between) copies issued. Interviews with several key participants add context to the technical challenges faced, and how these were resolved (or not). The essay is accompanied by marginal notes with commentaries, expansions, digressions & sometimes subjective editorializing on details, contradictions and inconsistencies in the main text. Numerous original photographs of Deluxe and Small edition copies are included. Appended are a select bibliography of other publications from Begos, a facsimile resetting of a prospectus of which only one copy is known to exist, and a detailed list of references.
About Agrippa (8.25 x 11.5 inches, 40 pp.) was printed in full color, sewn in sections and put into a stiff paper cover. Fifty copies were produced, with most being distributed to people and institutions who assisted in the research.