Paper: Book summary and reviews of Paper by Mark Kurlansky

Paper

Paging Through History

by Mark Kurlansky

Paper by Mark Kurlansky X
Paper by Mark Kurlansky
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Book Summary

From the New York Times best-selling author of Cod and Salt, a definitive history of paper and the astonishing ways it has shaped today's world.

Paper is one of the simplest and most essential pieces of human technology. For the past two millennia, the ability to produce it in ever more efficient ways has supported the proliferation of literacy, media, religion, education, commerce, and art; it has formed the foundation of civilizations, promoting revolutions and restoring stability. One has only to look at history's greatest press run, which produced 6.5 billion copies of Máo zhuxí yulu, Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung (Zedong)?which doesn't include editions in 37 foreign languages and in braille?to appreciate the range and influence of a single publication, in paper. Or take the fact that one of history's most revered artists, Leonardo da Vinci, left behind only 15 paintings but 4,000 works on paper. And though the colonies were at the time calling for a boycott of all British goods, the one exception they made speaks to the essentiality of the material; they penned the Declaration of Independence on British paper.

Now, amid discussion of "going paperless" - and as speculation about the effects of a digitally dependent society grows rampant - we've come to a world-historic juncture. Thousands of years ago, Socrates and Plato warned that written language would be the end of "true knowledge," replacing the need to excise memory and think through complex questions. Similar arguments were made about the switch from handwritten to printed books, and today about the role of computer technology. By tracing paper's evolution from antiquity to the present, with an emphasis on the contributions made in Asia and the Middle East, Mark Kurlansky challenges common assumptions about technology's influence, affirming that paper is here to stay. Paper will be the commodity history that guides us forward in the twenty-first century and illuminates our times.

24 illustrations

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Despite what is both a fascinating topic, as proven by other titles on the history of paper, and a metaphysical experience (for readers of the print edition), Kurlansky's dull writing style and haphazard employment of his technological thesis make this an unsatisfying work." - Publishers Weekly

"Curious, vital, prolific, and witty… Kurlansky's work makes brilliant use of paper as a key to civilization." - Booklist

"While Alexander Monro's The Paper Trail... is the more substantial account, Kurlansky's focus on the role paper has played in our modern world offers a necessary discussion." - Library Journal

This information about Paper shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

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Author Information

Mark Kurlansky Author Biography

© Lisa Klausner

Mark Kurlansky was born in Hartford, Connecticut.  After receiving a BA in Theater from Butler University in 1970, and refusing to serve in the military, Kurlansky worked in New York as a playwright, having a number of off-off Broadway productions, and as a playwright-in-residence at Brooklyn College. He won the 1972 Earplay award for best radio play of the year.

He worked many other jobs including as a commercial fisherman, a dock worker, a paralegal, a cook, and a pastry chef.

In the mid 1970s, unhappy with the direction New York theater was taking, he turned to journalism, an early interest – he had been an editor on his high school newspaper.  From 1976 to 1991 he worked as a  foreign correspondent for The International Herald Tribune, The ...

... Full Biography
Link to Mark Kurlansky's Website

Name Pronunciation
Mark Kurlansky: ker-LAN-ski

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