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The Hidden History of Books

1 minute read

That a book looks and works as it does is an easy thing to take for granted, but it took a thousand disruptions over the course of millennia to make those bound objects what they are. In his new history of the book, written in a moment when those analog objects have an uncertain future, author Keith Houston traces the evolutions of writing, illustrating and papermaking from the ancient world to today. The attendant tales in The Book–of warring Greeks, backstabbing Chinese courtesans, of religion, pride, domination, failure and ingenuity–prove that the book’s story is a reflection of human beings too. As Houston notes amid his explanation of how written language came to be: “The letters in this book are the offspring of ancient Egyptian writing, filtered through 4,000 years of human history.” Are e-books the end of the story? “Yes,” Houston says. “And also no. And also maybe.”


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