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Books: A Living History

Overview

From the first scribbling on papyrus to the emergence of the e-book, this wide-ranging overview of the history of the book provides a fascinating look at one of the most efficient, versatile, and enduring technologies ever developed. The author traces the evolution of the book from the rarefied world of the hand-copied and illuminated volume in ancient and medieval times, through the revolutionary impact of Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press, to the rise of a publishing culture in the nineteenth and ...

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Overview

From the first scribbling on papyrus to the emergence of the e-book, this wide-ranging overview of the history of the book provides a fascinating look at one of the most efficient, versatile, and enduring technologies ever developed. The author traces the evolution of the book from the rarefied world of the hand-copied and illuminated volume in ancient and medieval times, through the revolutionary impact of Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press, to the rise of a publishing culture in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and the subsequent impact of new technologies on this culture.  

Many of the great individual titles of the past two millennia are discussed as well as the range of book types and formats that have emerged in the last few hundred years, from serial and dime novels to paperbacks, children’s books, and Japanese manga. The volume ends with a discussion of the digital revolution in book production and distribution and the ramifications for book lovers, who can’t help but wonder whether the book will thrive—or even survive—in a form they recognize.
 

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this sumptuously illustrated history of the book, Lyons (Ordinary Writing, Personal Narratives) covers a millennia of changes, from ancient Mesopotamian carvings to Gutenberg’s innovations in printing, through the computer age and the advent of the Internet and e-readers. Rather than narrate a continuous story, he utilizes two to four page chronological sections with headings such as “Luther’s Bible,” “Books of the Scientific Revolution,” and “Atlases and Cartography.” With such heterogeneous segments, it’s difficult to discern the principle of inclusion or exclusion. Meanwhile, the many illustrations serve as interesting (though non-essential) window-dressing for the text, as with the splendid images from the Book of Kells or the detailed drawings of mechanized printing presses. Larger than a typical hardback yet smaller than a coffee table book, the contents seem similarly torn between a textbook’s dry specificity and the generality of a popular history. However, this approachable and attractive volume summarizes key moments in the evolution of print culture, in a tone suitable for an unfamiliar or general interest reader. Scholars will find nothing new, and will likely be disappointed by the book’s aggressive superficiality. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
"In this sumptuously illustrated history of the book, Lyons covers a millennia of changes, from ancient Mesopotamian carvings to Gutenberg's innovations in printing, through the computer age and the advent of the Internet and e-readers."—Publishers Weekly 

"Besides giving us a visual journey of the book as a beautiful, aesthetic object, Lyons also shows how influential the book has been in shaping human history for 2,500 years."—Shelf Awareness

“An excellent introduction to the history, terminology, and trends in writing and reading books.”—Fine Books & Collections

“An ambitious, beautifully illustrated work.”—Choice

“A profusion of bibliophilic eye-candy.”—College & Research Library News

Books: A Living History celebrates the history and magic of the book, from cuneiform tablets to Harry Potter, looking along the way at related trends in literacy rates, the growth of new genres and book-related industries over the centuries, and printing revolutions.”—Book News

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781606060834
  • Publisher: Getty Publications
  • Publication date: 10/11/2011
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 503,089
  • Product dimensions: 7.90 (w) x 10.20 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Martyn Lyons is professor of history at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, and the author of A History of Reading and Writing in the Western World (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009) and Reading Culture and Writing Practices in Nineteenth-Century France (University of Toronto Press, 2008).

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 18, 2012

    Great read for a bibliophile

    If you love books, as I do, you will get a lot out of this book. I'm going to re-read it many times, because there is so much history here that I can't absorb it all in just one reading. You will be surprised how much of our sayings, language and culture arises from the jargon of making books, from the first clay tablets through ebooks. I've been reading a lot of history lately and it was very gratifying how the history of the book weaves itself throughout history, through many familiar events and people I've come across in my reading. There are a lot of good, interesting, sometimes humorous photos, illustrations, and reproductions of book pages - I would have enjoyed even more but that might just be me, some people don't care for visuals in a book. In short, I am really glad I bought this book! The only reason I didn't give it 5 stars is because my default is NOT to give a book 5 stars; I'm a really hard grader. A book just has to knock me completely off my feet to get 5 stars.

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