Paper

Paper

Paging Through History

Book - 2016
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Through tracing paper's evolution, Mark Kurlansky challenges common assumptions about technology's influence, affirming that paper is here to stay.
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 Quotations from Chairman Mao (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 exercise 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.--Adapted from dust jacket.
Publisher: New York : W.W. Norton & Company, [2016]
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780393239614
0393239616
Branch Call Number: 676.09 K9687p 2016
Characteristics: xx, 389 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm

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PimaLib_NormS Nov 03, 2016

If you like knowing the history of mundane items, as I do, then “Paper: Paging Through History” by Mark Kurlansky, is for you. I’ve never thought much about paper. I had a vague knowledge of paper being made from trees, but had no idea about the process. I had no knowledge of the history of paper, at all. I never knew that, for centuries, paper was made from rags. The most interesting part of the book for me, was when Kurlansky explained, by using the history of paper, how new technology almost always does not cause change, technology is the response to a changing world. Civilizations were changing and a need arose to record things quickly and easily. Paper evolved to meet that need. With all the talk about our moving toward a “paperless society”, Kurlansky opines that paper will be around for a long time to come. Some facets of the paper business will eventually go away, but other uses for paper will come along. For example, paper in the form of newsprint is in decline, but paper for packaging is increasing, mainly due to online shopping. I’ve read several of Mark Kurlansky’s books, and his method is to research the heck out of his subject, then present what he has learned in a clear and informative style. “Paper: Paging Through History” is a good read.

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