Marginalia, no.185

There are other instruments of this kind…whose inventors also lie hidden in deepest darkness, to the great detriment of their fame. Likewise there is no record of the first person who made a candle from tallow – an undistinguished achievement but a notably useful one. Nor do we know who first tamed birds for hunting… nor have we anything to mark the memory of the first maker of rings.

~ Polydore Vergil, On Discovery

I pour out a libation to the first inventor of buttons: the round and square, the thick and thin – of seashell, silver, bone or brass – of plastic, steel, or polished wood – in jars, in drawers, or scattered on a desk: let us have many, many buttons. Consider what we owe them. What is Falstaff without undoing his buttons after sack and supper? What are Frog and Toad without a quest for lost buttons? Buttons are primitive currency, badges of civilization, tactile treasures of ubiquitous obscurity. Less respected than rings or candles, they are no less useful, no less capable of bearing symbolic weight, and the pleasures of buttoning and unbuttoning are universally honored.

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