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Paper Before Print: The History and Impact of Paper in the Islamic World

Overview

Like the printing press, typewriter, and computer, paper has been a crucial agent for the dissemination of information. This engaging book presents an important new chapter in paper’s history: how its use in Islamic lands during the Middle Ages influenced almost every aspect of medieval life. Focusing on the spread of paper from the early eighth century, when Muslims in West Asia acquired Chinese knowledge of paper and papermaking, to five centuries later, when they transmitted this knowledge to Christians in ...
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Overview

Like the printing press, typewriter, and computer, paper has been a crucial agent for the dissemination of information. This engaging book presents an important new chapter in paper’s history: how its use in Islamic lands during the Middle Ages influenced almost every aspect of medieval life. Focusing on the spread of paper from the early eighth century, when Muslims in West Asia acquired Chinese knowledge of paper and papermaking, to five centuries later, when they transmitted this knowledge to Christians in Spain and Sicily, the book reveals how paper utterly transformed the passing of knowledge and served as a bridge between cultures. Jonathan Bloom traces the earliest history of paper—how it was invented in China over 2,000 years ago, how it entered the Islamic lands of West Asia and North Africa, and how it spread to northern Europe. He explores the impact of paper on the development of writing, books, mathematics, music, art, architecture, and even cooking. And he discusses why Europe was so quick to adopt paper from the Islamic lands and why the Islamic lands were so slow to accept printing in return. Together the beautifully written text and delightful illustrations (of papermaking techniques and the many uses to which paper was put) give new luster and importance to a now-humble material.

Author Biography: Jonathan M. Bloom, Norma Jean Calderwood University Professor of Islamic and Asian Art at Boston College, is coauthor of The Art and Architecture of Islam, also published by Yale University Press.

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Editorial Reviews

Robert Hillenbrand
A very ambitious book of wide intellectual scope and down-to-earth relevance to the humanities . . . . It is brimful of ideas and fizzes with life.
Publishers Weekly
Though paper was invented in China around 100-200 B.C., it took nearly a thousand years for Europeans to employ it and Muslims were responsible for introducing them to the technology. Bostoon College professor of Islamic and Asian art Jonathan M. Bloom explores paper's early evolution and use in Paper Before Print: The History and Impact of Paper in the Islamic World, and argues that "much in the history of Islamic civilization in the Middle Ages... can be seen in terms of the conflicting claims of memory and written record." Accompanying Bloom's elegant prose are 48 color plates and 53 b&w illustrations of maps, illustrated texts of Islamic poetry, pages of the Koran, and papermaking techniques. ( Dec.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300089554
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/2001
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 8.60 (w) x 10.82 (h) x 0.96 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface
Maps: The Spread of Paper and Papermaking
Introduction 1
1 The Invention of Paper 16
Clay Tablets and Papyrus Rolls
Wooden Tablets and Parchment Codices
Bamboo Strips and Silk Cloth
The Invention of Paper
The Diffusion of Paper
The Introduction of Paper in the Islamic Lands
2 The Spread of Papermaking Across the Islamic Lands 46
Iraq
Syria
Iran and Central Asia
Egypt
The Maghrib (North Africa and Spain)
3 Paper and Books 90
The Koran and Oral Culture
Written Arabic
An Explosion of Books
Collections and Libraries
A Culture of Writing
4 Paper and Systems of Notation 124
Mathematics
Commerce
Cartography
Music, Genealogy, and Battle Plans
5 Paper and the Visual Arts 160
Before the Thirteenth Century
From the Thirteenth Century
6 The Transfer of Paper and Papermaking to Christian Europe 202
Byzantium
Spain
Italy
Europe North of the Alps
7 Paper After Print 214
Bibliographical Essay 227
Works Cited 249
Index 263
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