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A Best Book of the Year: Mother Jones, Bloomberg News, National Post, Kirkus
In these pages, Nicholas Basbanes—the consummate bibliophile’s bibliophile—shows how paper has been civilization’s constant companion. It preserves our history and gives record to our very finest literary, cultural, and scientific accomplishments. Since its invention in China nearly two millennia ago, the technology of paper has spread throughout the inhabited world.
With deep knowledge and care, Basbanes traces paper’s trail from the earliest handmade sheets to the modern-day mills. Paper, yoked to politics, has played a crucial role in the unfolding of landmark events, from the American Revolution to Daniel Ellsberg’s Pentagon Papers to the aftermath of 9/11. Without paper, modern hygienic practice would be unimaginable; as currency, people will do almost anything to possess it; and, as a tool of expression, it is inextricable from human culture. Lavishly researched, compellingly written, this masterful guide illuminates paper’s endless possibilities.
"Clear and necessary. . . . Basbanes is a power hitter whose grand slam brings home other recent appreciators of paper." —The Chronicle of Higher Education
“Fascinating. . . . Reminds us that bound up in the most mundane of objects, there is the potential for the deepest of human expression.” —Mother Jones
“I will confess to being an enormous Basbanes fan, but this volume may well be his best.” —Stephen L. Carter, Bloomberg News
“Buoyant, encyclopedic. . . . Celebrates paper in all its forms.” —The New Yorker
"A prodigious and endlessly fascinating tome. . . . In Basbanes’ capable hands, the assembled elements become amusing, fascinating, and at times profound. He is the bibliophile’s Bill Bryson and takes the reader on a journey of discovery about an object we take for granted but cannot do without." —Santa Fe New Mexican