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The Everything of Its Two-Thousand-Year History

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A Best Book of the Year: Mother JonesBloomberg News, National PostKirkus Reviews 

A consideration of all things paper—its invention that revolutionized human civilization; its thousand-fold uses (and misuses), proliferation, and sweeping influence on society; its makers, shapers, collectors, and pulpers—written by the admired cultural historian and author of the trilogy on all things book-related: A Gentle Madness; Patience and Fortitude (“How could any intelligent, literate person not just love this book?”—Simon Winchester); and A Splendor of Letters (“Elegant, wry, and humane”—André Bernard, New York Observer).

Nicholas Basbanes writes about paper, from its invention in China two thousand years ago to its ideal means, recording the thoughts of Islamic scholars and mathematicians that made the Middle East a center of intellectual energy; from Europe, by way of Spain in the twelfth century and Italy in the thirteenth at the time of the Renaissance, to North America and the rest of the inhabited world.

Basbanes writes about the ways in which paper has been used to record history, make laws, conduct business, and establish identities . . . He makes clear that without paper, modern hygienic practice would be unimaginable; that as currency, people will do almost anything to possess it . . . that the Industrial Revolution would never have happened without paper on which to draw designs and blueprints.

We see paper’s crucial role in the unfolding of historical events, political scandals, and sensational trials: how the American Revolution which took shape with the Battle of Lexington and Concord, began with the Stamp Act of 1765 . . . the Dreyfus Affair and the forged memorandum known as “the bordereau” . . . America’s entry into World War I with the Zimmerman Telegram . . . the Alger Hiss spy case and Whittaker Chambers’s testimony involving the notorious Pumpkin Papers . . . Daniel Ellsberg's release of the Pentagon Papers in 1971 and the scandal of Watergate.

Basbanes writes of his travels to get to the source of the story—to China, along the Burma Road, and to Japan, whose handmade paper, washi, is as much an expression of the human spirit as it is of craftsmanship . . . to Landover, Maryland, home of the National Security Agency and its one hundred million ultra secret documents, pulped by cryptologists and sent to be recycled as pizza boxes and egg cartons . . . to the Crane Paper mill of Dalton, Massachusetts, a seventh-generation family-owned enterprise, the exclusive supplier of paper for American currency since 1879 . . . and to the Kimberly-Clark mill in New Milford, Connecticut, manufacturer daily of one million boxes of Kleenex tissue and as many rolls of Scott kitchen towels.

Entertaining, illuminating, irresistible, a book that masterfully guides us through paper’s inseparability from human culture . . .




From the Hardcover edition.
Show less

A Best Book of the Year: Mother JonesBloomberg News, National PostKirkus Reviews 

A consideration of all things paper—its invention that revolutionized human civilization; its thousand-fold uses (and misuses), proliferation, and sweeping influence on society; its makers, shapers, collectors, and pulpers—written by the admired cultural historian and author of the trilogy on all things book-related: A Gentle Madness; Patience and Fortitude (“How could any intelligent, literate person not just love this book?”—Simon Winchester); and A Splendor of Letters (“Elegant, wry, and humane”—André Bernard, New York Observer).

Nicholas Basbanes writes about paper, from its invention in China two thousand years ago to its ideal means, recording the thoughts of Islamic scholars and mathematicians that made the Middle East a center of intellectual energy; from Europe, by way of Spain in the twelfth century and Italy in the thirteenth at the time of the Renaissance, to North America and the rest of the inhabited world.

Basbanes writes about the ways in which paper has been used to record history, make laws, conduct business, and establish identities . . . He makes clear that without paper, modern hygienic practice would be unimaginable; that as currency, people will do almost anything to possess it . . . that the Industrial Revolution would never have happened without paper on which to draw designs and blueprints.

We see paper’s crucial role in the unfolding of historical events, political scandals, and sensational trials: how the American Revolution which took shape with the Battle of Lexington and Concord, began with the Stamp Act of 1765 . . . the Dreyfus Affair and the forged memorandum known as “the bordereau” . . . America’s entry into World War I with the Zimmerman Telegram . . . the Alger Hiss spy case and Whittaker Chambers’s testimony involving the notorious Pumpkin Papers . . . Daniel Ellsberg's release of the Pentagon Papers in 1971 and the scandal of Watergate.

Basbanes writes of his travels to get to the source of the story—to China, along the Burma Road, and to Japan, whose handmade paper, washi, is as much an expression of the human spirit as it is of craftsmanship . . . to Landover, Maryland, home of the National Security Agency and its one hundred million ultra secret documents, pulped by cryptologists and sent to be recycled as pizza boxes and egg cartons . . . to the Crane Paper mill of Dalton, Massachusetts, a seventh-generation family-owned enterprise, the exclusive supplier of paper for American currency since 1879 . . . and to the Kimberly-Clark mill in New Milford, Connecticut, manufacturer daily of one million boxes of Kleenex tissue and as many rolls of Scott kitchen towels.

Entertaining, illuminating, irresistible, a book that masterfully guides us through paper’s inseparability from human culture . . .




From the Hardcover edition.
Product Details
eBook (448 pages)
Published: October 15, 2013
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Imprint: Knopf
ISBN: 9780385350440
Other books byNicholas A. Basbanes
  • Patience & Fortitude

    Patience & Fortitude
    Wherein a Colorful Cast of Determined Book...
    In his national bestseller, A Gentle Madness, Nicholas Basbanes explored the sweet obsession people feel to possess books. Now, Basbanes continues his adventures among the "gently mad" on an irresistible journey to the great libraries of the past -- from Alexandria to Glastonbury -- and to contemporary collections at the Vatican, Wolfenbüttel, and erudite universities. Along the way, he drops in on eccentric book dealers and regales us with stories about unforgettable collectors, such as the gentleman who bought a rare book in 1939 "by selling bottles of his own blood." Taking the book's grand title from the marble lions guarding the New York Public Library at 42nd Street, Basbanes both entertains and delights. And once again, as Scott Turow aptly noted, "Basbanes makes you love books, the collections he writes about, and the volume in your hand."

    A World of Letters

    A World of Letters
    Yale University Press, 1908-2008
    For Yale University Press, which celebrates its hundredth birthday in 2008, the century has been an eventful one, punctuated with no few surprises. The Press has published more than 8,000 volumes through the years, scores of bestsellers and award-winners among them, and these books have come to fruition through the efforts of a host of colorful authors, editors, directors, board members, and others of intellectual and literary renown.   With an ear always cocked for an interesting tale, one of today’s best storytellers presents an anecdote-rich chronicle of the Press’s first 100 years. Nicholas Basbanes, whom David McCullough has called “the leading authority of books about books,” quickly convinces us that the Press’s history, while bookish, is also lively and fascinating. Basbanes explores the saga behind the acquisition of Eugene O’Neill’s blockbuster play, the all-time Yale bestseller Long Day’s Journey into Night; the controversy sparked in 1965 by publication of The Vinland Map; the origins of the groundbreaking Annals of Communism series, initiated in the wake of the Soviet Union’s demise; and many more highlights from Press annals. Basbanes looks at the reasons behind the publisher’s remarkable financial success, and he completes A World of Letters with a glimpse at the new initiatives that will propel the Press into a second exciting century.

    A Splendor of Letters

    A Splendor of Letters
    The Permanence of Books in an Impermanent World
    In A Splendor of Letters, Nicholas A. Basbanes continues the lively, richly anecdotal exploration of book people, places, and culture he began in 1995 with A Gentle Madness (a finalist that year for the National Book Critics Circle Award) and expanded in 2001 with Patience & Fortitude, a companion work that prompted the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and biographer David McCullough to proclaim him "the leading authority of books about books." In this beautifully packaged edition, Basbanes brings to a close his wonderful trilogy on the remarkable world of books and bibliophiles.

    Every Book Its Reader

    Every Book Its Reader
    The Power of the Printed Word to Stir the World
    Inspired by a landmark exhibition mounted by the British Museum in 1963 to celebrate five eventful centuries of the printed word, Nicholas A. Basbanes offers a lively consideration of writings that have "made things happen" in the world, works that have both nudged the course of history and fired the imagination of countless influential people. In his fifth work to examine a specific aspect of book culture, Basbanes also asks what we can know about such figures as John Milton, Edward Gibbon, John Locke, Isaac Newton, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Adams, Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Henry James, Thomas Edison, Helen Keller––even the notorious Marquis de Sade and Adolf Hitler––by knowing what they have read. He shows how books that many of these people have consulted, in some cases annotated with their marginal notes, can offer tantalizing clues to the evolution of their character and the development of their thought.

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