Boilerplate: History's Mechanical Marvel is an illustrated history of the Zelig-esque "mechanical man" Boilerplate, allegedly built in 1893. Local husband and wife duo Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett have compiled a remarkably detailed and convincing chronology, following Boilerplate's adventures as he agitates for workers' rights, explores the Klondike, fights with Lawrence of Arabia, and ultimately disappears on the frontlines of World War 1. Boilerplate's seamless insertion into the historical record gives the book dual life as both a clever art exercise (he appears throughout in photographs, paintings, and advertisements, many of which were recently on display at PCPA) and an innovative history lesson. It's a fun, charming read, in other words—and it's been years in the works, debuting as a website so detailed that it convinced many readers the robot was an actual historical figure. (John Dooley covered the Boilerplate phenomenon for us back in 2002, when the robot was only a web-twinkle in Guinan's eye.)
Boilerplate: History's Mechanical Marvel, by Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett, reading tonight at Powell's City of Books, 1005 W Burnside, 7:30 pm
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