The Pharaoh's Treasure: The Origin of Paper and the Rise of Western Civilization

The Pharaoh's Treasure: The Origin of Paper and the Rise of Western Civilization

by John Gaudet

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Overview

A thought-provoking history of papyrus paper—from its origins in Egypt to its spread throughout the world—revealing how it helped usher in a new era of human history.

Throughout our entire history, humans have always searched for new ways to share information. This innate compulsion led to the origin of writing on the rock walls of caves and coffin lids or carving on tablets. But it was with the advent of papyrus paper when the ability to record and transmit information exploded, allowing for an exchanging of ideas from the banks of the Nile throughout the Mediterranean—and the civilized world—for the first time in human history.

In The Pharaoh’s Treasure, John Gaudet looks at this pivotal transition to papyrus paper, which would become the most commonly used information medium in the world for more than 4,000 years. Far from fragile, papyrus paper is an especially durable writing surface; papyrus books and documents in ancient and medieval times had a usable life of hundreds of years, and this durability has allowed items like the famous Nag Hammadi codices from the third and fourth century to survive.

The story of this material that was prized by both scholars and kings reveals how papyrus paper is more than a relic of our ancient past, but a key to understanding how ideas and information shaped humanity in the ancient and early modern world.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781681778532
Publisher: Pegasus Books
Publication date: 10/02/2018
Pages: 392
Sales rank: 1,250,341
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

A Fulbright Scholar to both India and Malaya, John Gaudet is a writer and practicing ecologist. His early research on papyrus, funded in part by the National Geographic Society, took him to Uganda, Kenya, Sudan, and Ethiopia. A trained ecologist with a PhD from University of California at Berkeley, he is the author of Papyrus: The Plant that Changed the World, and his writing has appeared in Science, Nature, Ecology, the Washington Post, Salon and the Huffington Post. He lives in McLean, Virgina.

Table of Contents

Author's Note xiii

Prologue xvii

Part I Guardian of Immortality 1

1 The Inspector Puts Pen to Paper and Makes History 3

2 Prisse, like Moses, Carries Home Stone Tablets and Paper Scrolls 24

3 The Undertaker's Special and the World's First Bestseller 32

4 The Book of the Dead, Guardian of Immortality 45

5 Papyrus Paper, Your Ticket to Paradise 54

6 The Sands of the Nile Give Up their Treasures 69

7 The Affair of the Oranges 74

8 The Floodgates Open 83

Part II Egypt, Papermaker to the World 91

9 The Birth of Memphis and Paper 93

10 A Gift from the Gods 107

11 The Monopoly 112

12 Growing and Managing Papyrus for Paper 120

13 The Emperor and the Lewd Papermaker 127

14 Taking on the World-and Leaving a Legacy 136

Part III The Enemy of Oblivion 151

15 Early Libraries, Paper, and the Writing Business 153

16 A Library to End All Libraries and the Sweet Smell of History 167

17 The Romans and the Book Trade 177

18 Roman Libraries 186

19 Those Precious, Tender-hearted Scrolls 200

20 Saving the Day 210

21 Media One Makes Its Mark in the World 216

22 The Last Bastion, the Church of Rome 230

23 Constantinople and the Long Goodbye 238

24 End of the Road and the Battle of the Tolas River 254

25 The Mystery of the Disappearing Plant 264

26 The Pharaoh's Own Conquers the Vatican 274

27 The Road Back 285

Epilogue The Road Ahead 293

Acknowledgments 307

Supplementary Illustration Credits 311

Appendix 313

References 317

Endnotes 327

Index 345

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