Machines and gadgets fascinated Jefferson. He was especially taken with the "orrery" – a working model of the universe – created by David Rittenhouse of Philadelphia. He concluded that Rittenhouse was one of America’s three great geniuses, along with Washington and Franklin; he claimed that Rittenhouse “has exhibited as great a proof of mechanical genius as the world has ever produced.”
— Gordon S. Wood, Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson (2017)
Some weeks ago, when I first read the paragraph above from Gordon Wood's lucid and necessary history, I had cause to wonder if Rittenhouse's name appeared in Little, Big, and was immediately certain it did not; a quick electronic search of the text confirmed this. But then I was struck by the thought that the entire novel stands as an evocation of the sound of Rittenhouse's name, as, perhaps more than anything else it might be, Little, Big is a "written house", or a set or series or cyclopalindromic concatenate of nested written houses.
Meanwhile, in n-dimensional adjacency to all possible texts and all possible editions of Little, Big past present and future – including John Crowley’s own private, inner “edition that's perfect and sufficient in every respect, and always has been, one that can't be harmed or taken away” but one that alas “no one else will ever know” – the pace of work on our new, material-world archival edition of Little, Big is accelerating, more people are coming on board to help smooth the way with various logistical issues, and we are working hard to position everything so we can commence print production in May if not before, which will mean finished books around the end of summer. The flip side is that the "world road" upon which pretty much everyone alive is walking is full of a lot more rocks than usual — stones of pandemic, super storm, economic collapse, civil discord — and, given that that’s the case, more than the usual number of caveats must be in play, by definition. Flip side again, I’m in a good place and relatively free of other necessitous commitments that might keep me from my own part of the work needed to get the job done. So . . .
I can’t begin to tell you how excited we are at the prospect of completing this magical artefact and sending it out into the world at last. Our dearest hope is that each copy of this edition might indeed become a “magical artefact” for its readers, “magical” not in the fantasy novel sense, nor in the supernatural sense, but in the engine-of-inspiration sense: where the novel tells one story, a story that deepens and broadens and grows more vivid with each reading, the selection and sequence of 334 works of art tells another story, however elusive / allusive, and the juxtaposition of art and novel tells a third story, like an impassioned conversation between well met new friends who at first blush may feel they’ve known one another nearly forever, a potency that renews itself on each subsequent meeting, the transformative / transformable fuel and changeful result the very consciousness of the reader herself, his wonder and yearning, her memory and dreams, their parted and conjoined specificity and indeterminacy. And the result of those stories’ tripartite intertwining – the result energized and awakened in the reader’s rounding up of that trio to a quartet -- is always and ever changefully greater than the sum of its parts. Our dearest hope.