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10 thoughts on “Paper: Paging Through History

  1. Diane Diane says:

    This was a fascinating book on the history of paper I especially enjoyed the discussion on technology and how it’s a common myth that “technology changes society” Instead Kurlansky argues that society is what changes and technology is developed to meet the new needs of the peopleBesides the interesting look at the various ways that different cultures throughout history have created uniue ways of creating paper and recording documents this book also includes details on the history of writing and printing which I really enjoyedThis was my first Kurlansky book but I liked this one so much that I plan on reading of his works Highly recommended


  2. Matt Matt says:

    Those who have been following my reviews of late will know that I have been drawn to Mark Kurlansky’s work on the history of certain edible items In these pieces the author depicts the evolution and exponential uses for the products throughout the centuries Here with the history of paper before me some may feel that things will take a significant turn towards the mundane Just how interesting can paper be and how can someone extol its virtues for hundreds of pages? I too was somewhat a skeptic but also highly curious to see if it could be done in an entertaining and educational manner Kurlansky posits early in the book that it it not paper per se that is examined here but the evolution of human’s communication utilising paper as its conduit Still not sold? Well Kurlansky explores some of the early forms of written communication—from the development of ancient Chinese through intricate and interconnected symbols through the development of the Roman alphabet—and how such thoughts were placed on objects for long term reference Moses and those Ten Commandments were only a primitive means by which of moving from oral tradition to the document form that allowed many to view and potentially understand what had been said Stone clay bark and even animal skin seemed to be the early forms of documentation material but paper was also being used to adeuately hold words or symbols for longer periods of time Kurlansky explores varieties of paper and their acidic levels which also played a key role in durability both in the short term and throughout history as well as the varied types of plant life that could be used to create paper From there it was the evolution of documentation that fills the biography’s pages Handwritten accounts served for a time but when Gutenberg and others were able to create or hone printing presses mass communication became possible Interestingly enough Kurlansky argues that history takes not the inventor of a concept but heshe who is able to find the best way to apply it to society and deifies them That intellect has helped label concepts throughout history pushing false praise on a number of people As paper was less costly and easier to mass produce it was also highly effective in the art world No longer did an artist need to worry about waste as they could sketch out an idea or a concept before putting it to canvass Paper also ushered in the era of drawing and rough drafts which proved highly useful for the likes of Michelangelo Kurlanaky also explores some of the details around paper’s use as a political weapn helping to fuel many a revolution through political tracts and pamphlets There is extensive discussion of the American and French Revolutions spread to the masses by the printed material made available During the latter portion of the book Kurlansky explores the economic ramification of paper making around the world particularly paper mills and the environmental impact The reader can see the financial side of paper and how something as simple as a sheet used for writing can be such a lucrative industry particularly for some Asian countries who have taken on the recycling process and redistribution of paper back into the market For a topic that may seem rather drab Kurlansky creates uite an interest biography that weaves the history of paper through the ages permitting the reader to learn a little about the building blocks of their favourtite book Unless we’re talking about e books but that’s for another discussion Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in biographies particularly of a uniue natureAs with many of his past biographies Kurlansky is able to pull the reader in from the beginning laying the groundwork for what is to be an interesting piece of writing At no time do things go ‘flat’ or lose their lustre for Kurlansky has been able to distill all the information gathered and present it in a masterful manner with just enough intrigue to keep the reader wanting to know Some may say that paper cannot be exciting no matter how delightful the narrative but I would disagree Kurlansky takes hold of this topic and provides the reader with much to ponder His ongoing theme that paper is not only so versatile but has come into its own through a variety of cultural and historical evolutions rings true The reader is able to explore paper and its predecessors around the world and see how each region of the world added its own spin Technology proved to be highly influenced by paper something that Kurlansky also argues effectively As the reader will notice it was paper that brought about much of the advancements in printing and communication technology Revolutions depended not only on overthrowing governments and monarchies but on having the paper to rile up the masses I had never thought of things from this perspective but Kurlansky has a tendency of opening my mind and leaving me in awe With jam packed chapters that offer historical and cultural perspectives the reader is able to see paper advancements from around the world and the eventual connection of all these cultures into modern paper making and forms of technology that rely on this somewhat simple and forgotten cog in the larger wheel Kurlansky breathes life into a topic that might not otherwise be of much interest but does so in such a way that the reader cannot help but care With easy to understand descriptions and a flowing narrative Kurlansky shows yet again that he has a handle on the nuances of uniue biographical tomesKudos Mr Kurlansky for another winner in my eyes I have marvelled at all you have to say about these topics and this one was another winner for me Keep up the excellent writing and I hope to find of your biographies soonLovehate the review? An ever growing collection of others appears at Book for All Seasons a different sort of Book Challenge


  3. Patty Patty says:

    I'm very into microhistories – books focused on a specific topic or single event – and Kurlansky is one of the best known authors of them with his book Salt probably the best known microhistory of them all In this book he takes on paper which he defines very narrowly a very thin layer of randomly woven fibers which excludes papyrus parchment vellum and other materials that I'd thought were basically the same thing Now I know better And then of course there are all the paper adjacent developments to cover written language itself numbers printing books art from watercolors to woodblocks to lithographs to photography ink newspapers and even the American Revolution after all The Stamp Act was pretty important Kurlansky covers paper from prehistory through the Industrial Revolution right up to the modern day where a trend for hand made paper is pushing back against the last few centuries of machine madeUnfortunately I didn't think this book was uite as fun as the previous books by Kurlansky I've read Still it was interesting and I particularly liked Kurlansky's repeated arguments against technological determinism – the idea that new technologies change society Instead as Kurlansky clearly shows society changes first and new technologies develop in response At a time when people can't stop decrying the terrifying oncoming conseuences of texting or email or facebook it's nice to be reminded that people have been prophesying the exact same doom since the dawn of historyI read this as an ARC via NetGalley


  4. Bryan Alkire Bryan Alkire says:

    Mediocre book I was looking forward to reading this one and ended up disappointed The idea was interesting and the content itself was interesting The huge problems were organization and writing Frankly I would have been embarrassed to turn this in for a high school composition class Yes it’s that badly organized It’s as if there were no editor overseeing the project If there was and I never read acknowledgements so I don’t know then said editor should be fired There is no structure beyond chapters Within each chapter is a mass of detail with no or little organization The writing isn’t uite as bad as the organization but it’s close The writing seems to focus on trivia and lacks transitions or coherence to an idea I also noticed tense inconsistencies which I rarely notice that should tell you how flagrant the problem is So I can’t recommend this book and I’m now hesitant to read any of the author’s work that I haven’t read before


  5. Bob Bob says:

    I had very high hopes for Paper but Kurlansky's book never fulfilled them The book could never make up its mind whether it was about the manufacturing of paper or what paper is used for Kurlansky fashions himself an expert on the history of technology but seems to sell Asia shortThis is the second book I've read on the history of paper I read Ian Sansom's book on it in 2013 That wasn't all that interesting either I think I'm officially retired from the history of paper reading department


  6. Jonathan Jonathan says:

    Disclosure I received a review copy of this book from NetGalleySome may consider it ironic that one would read a book about paper on an eBook reader And it would probably be better not to as studies tend to indicate that reading from a paper book results in retention of information But nevertheless I shall endeavor to review this book Paper Paging Through History by Mark KurlanskyKurlansky is probably best known for his books Salt and Cod other sweeping histories of commodities as well as books on such topics as the Basue people and the year 1968 He is a very skilled writer and makes his topics interesting and amusing Paper is no exceptionThis is a book I would describe as a grand history of paper Kurlansky examines paper as a technology as a commodity as a phenomenon as an instrument for social forces to use as a window into the lives of those involved with its development and production But with a wider view he uses paper as a model to argue in opposition to technological determinismIn the modern western world technology has taken on a fetishistic uality We view it not only as a means to an end but also as the end itself We assume that technology guides society for instance the rise of micro computing and the beginning of the digital age is often said to have changed society What Kurlansky argues is that technology does not change society but it merely is created to fill a want or a need within an already changing society; ie cell phones and social networking didn't make us want to be connected to everyone 247 they merely filled the pre existing want or need Paper Kurlansky argues did not change societies which used it but rather was a tool for the already changing society to develop and use Chapter 1 of Paper begins the journey through time with a discussion of the origins of language spoken and later written Early writing materials were stone clay papyrus wax tablets parchment and vellum fabricsnot paper Paper like many other things originates in China At some point in the late centuries before the Common Era the Chinese developed paper How it came to be is a mystery Kurlansky then charts the movement of paper from China across the old world through the Middle East to EuropeBut paper didn't catch on in Europe Kurlansky tells us until an increased demand for books made it a desirable commodity This is similar to the development of movable type printing which Kurlansky also discusses From the printing press Kurlansky briefly transitions to the new world where the Aztecs already possess a highly literate society with their own paper After the conuest of the new world we are treated to the Protestant Reformation which furthered the importance of paper as a tool for mass mediaThrough all this time paper was made of rags in many cases linen It is back in the new world that wood paper really takes off in the 1860s And that brings us to the modern day where we've moved wood paper to a level of craftsmanship that rag paper had reached two hundred years ago Cellulose is cellulose but wood pulp treatments were once highly acidic; which has doomed 150 years of books and records to inevitable self destruction without chemical intervention And to the most modern use of paper as a medium for propagandaand for prophesying doom over the emergence of digital communications It might still be ironic to read this book on a digital device Paper is an outstanding book Kurlansky is an engaging writer There are issues I can point to he might overestimate levels of literacy in medieval Europe he has listed objects that this reviewer had never heard ofand which Google hasn't either and he proclaims rules of technology which may or may not be valid Given any errors or faulty pronouncements the book is a good read and I would not hesitate to recommend it


  7. Ram Ram says:

    An interesting history of the paper industry and many issues related to it like writing painting education technology printing and many othersWhile I did enjoy the descriptions of the paper making the hardships related to it the shortages related to the raw materials that were used in the history the effect of paper shortages on printing and many other aspects of our life I did have some issue with the technological claims that were presented in the book The main technological claim that is stated and repeated in the book is that Technology arises from changes in society rather than being the cause of societal change This is practically presented as an axiom in the book strengthened by some sporadic anecdotal examples I am not an expert in this subject at all but I am knowledgeable enough to know that this type of claim needs to be proven A brief search online shows that there are many counter opinions to this claim and my intuitive unlearned opinion is that the correct statement is that Technology in some cases arises from changes in society and in some cases is the cause of societal changes and in most cases both arises from changes in society and changes the society Some interesting facts I learned from the bookUntil paper was made from wood the main source of raw materials for paper was rags This cause a demand and shortage of rags One example was that after the Battle of Gettysburg the dead soldiers were stripped of their clothes by rag collectors that sent them by cartloads to a paper mill in the vicinityMaking new paper is so efficient that many companies make energy than they need and sell the energy to utility companiesRecycling does help provide material for things like cardboard and packaging material but it's not good for making paperThis is the second book I have read of this author the first is Salt A World History The concept of describing the history of the world using a specific commodity is nice I enjoyed it in the book about salt


  8. Joseph Joseph says:

    This book was a real eye opener I didn't know that something as simple as paper could have such a long and fascinating history The author traces the production of paper from ancient times to modern times I was captivated by this book and a little disappointed it went so fast Good books are like that though I would recommend this book to anyone who loves books and just reading in general A fantastic and uick read


  9. Linda Linda says:

    I had read Mark Kurlansky's book on oysters The Big Oyster and learned than I had ever realized about oysters and enjoyed it even though I never eat oysters When I saw this book on paper I knew I would enjoy reading it as well because I do love paper love to use it love to buy it and often talk myself out of acuiring even of it This book did not disappoint me although all of his books reuire you to make an investment of time because they are uite detailed Kurlansky's premise is that the invention and use of paper was technology and as with all technology people are often torn between embracing what is new and bemoaning the way things used to be which meant oral traditions and the use of human memory over the aid of reading and writing What he emphasizes throughout the book however is that technology does not drive change but human behavior drives the need for technologies to be invented When people needed help in business dealings the invention of numbers and writing and means to record that writing drove the invention of the alphabet and numbers both Roman and the useful IndiaArabic numerals The author also emphasizes that new technologies do not obliterate older technologies They often continue to exist side by side even if the newer one often seems to become popular As a librarian who is often asked if there will still be books now that e books are becoming used and I often say that hardback books were still around after paperbacks started being printed It just offers a choice and that is a theme that is documented throughout this book Although papyrus is not used any parchment is still used for certain usually important documents and books When machine paper making finally took off in the 19th century it did not mean that all hand made paper vanished It just bumped up handmade paper to a different use like parchment for a customer with certain needs such as calligraphers and artists and yes the product becomes expensive When Mark Kurlansky writes on a topic he uses that topic to range far and wide over human history In this book you get a history of literacy throughout the world as well as detailed descriptions of what being literate meant how it was achieved and how paper was involved with it all It makes you appreciate something we all take for granted


  10. Margaret Sankey Margaret Sankey says:

    Like Kurlansky's other books on a commodity this ends up being a full spectrum tour of human communications religion art and commerce centered around the material culture of paper There is nothing new here but with a global sweep Kurlansky explains how depending on your material mulberry bark cotton wood pulp papyrus and your purpose shoji screens scrolls sketchpad bureaucratic forms you get different ends with artifact lives of their own


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Paper: Paging Through History [PDF / Epub] ☉ Paper: Paging Through History By Mark Kurlansky – Natus-physiotherapy.co.uk 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 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 Paper: Paging Epub / and most essential pieces of human technology For the past two millennia the ability to produce it in ever efficient ways has supported the proliferation of literacy media religion education commerce and art It has created civilizations fostering the fomenting of revolutions and the stabilizing of regimes Witness history’s greatest press run which produced billion copies of Máo zhuˇ xí yuˇ lu uotations from Chairman Mao Tse tung Zedong or the fact that Leonardo da Vinci left behind only paintings but works on paper Now on the cusp of “going paperless”—and amid rampant speculation about the effects of a digitally dependent society—we’ve come to a world historic juncture to examine what paper means to civilization Through tracing paper’s evolution Mark Kurlansky challenges common assumptions about technology’s influence affirming that paper is here to stay Paper will be the history that guides us forward in the twenty first century and illuminates our times.

  • Hardcover
  • 389 pages
  • Paper: Paging Through History
  • Mark Kurlansky
  • English
  • 10 December 2016
  • 9780393239614

About the Author: Mark Kurlansky

Mark Kurlansky has written edited or contributed to twenty books which have been translated into twenty five languages and won numerous prizes His previous books Cod Salt and The Food of Paper: Paging Epub / a Younger Land were all New York Times best sellers.