Nicholas A. Basbanes is an award-winning investigative journalist and was literary editor of the Worcester Sunday Telegram. His articles have appeared in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, and Smithsonian, and he is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship. Basbanes lives in North Grafton, Massachusetts, with his wife
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A conversation with Nick Basbanes, author of On Paper: The Everything of its Two-thousand Year History
What inspired you to write On Paper?
After writing eight books about every conceivable aspect of books and book culture, it seemed logical that I turn to the stuff of transmission itself, and for more than five hundred years in the West and much longer than that in Asia and the Middle East the medium of choice has been paper. The actual idea to write a book about paper, though, was suggested to me in 2002 by MacArthur Fellow Timothy Barrett , during a speaking visit I made to the Iowa Center for the Book at the University of Iowa. I spent several days there with Tim a world-renowned authority in the fi eld of hand papermaking and he regaled me with stories about its history that I found irresistible.
The best part about it, from my standpoint, was that no book quite like the decidedly eclectic one I ultimately envisioned had ever been done before. This is not a formal chronology by any means, but a cultural history that takes in the full sweep of this remarkably versatile material, and discusses the impact it has had on the shaping of history.
Can you talk a bit about your research? ...
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