In "Agrippa (a Book of the Dead)," a collaboration between William Gibson, the science-fiction writer, and Dennis Ashbaugh, an artist, the poem has been encoded in the letters C, A, T and G; they represent the first letters of the quartet of nucleic acids in DNA: cytosine, adenine, thymine and guanine.
Among Mr. Ashbaugh's prints are two photosensitive images that either appear or disappear when exposed to the light. The poem itself, on a floppy disk, becomes encrypted as soon as it has been downloaded and can never be accessed again. The book has never been fully opened. But there it sits among its admittedly tamer cousins in one of the Edna Barnes Salomon Room's august tilted, glass-fronted cases, enigmatically doing its part to answer the exhibition's prevailing question.
Can books, without even being read, say something?
The answer would be a provisional yes; some can. And if it's not always clear what these books are saying, exactly, at least in saying it, or trying to, their fabricators seem to have had a good time.