Monday, January 9, 2017

Book Review: The Book

The Book: A Cover-to-Cover Exploration of the Most Powerful Object of Our Time
Keith Houston
History, books

The Book is a very good paean to, naturally, the book as physical object. Keith Houston chooses a clever and sensible arrangement. Rather than simply starting with cuneiform and moving forward, he traces the story of each of the book's components: the page (papyrus, parchment, paper), the text (writing and type), illustrations, and form. That turns out to be a dandy way of bringing together several separate but interrelated information streams.

Houston occasionally lapses into witticism of an notably English vintage. If you like this sort of thing, it's amusing; if you don't, it's merely arch. Other than that, his writing is good, his descriptions are clear, and his subject matter is first-rate.

Mark Kurlansky's Paper, for all of its lapses into highfalutin' nonsense, covers related topics. Also of interest: Henry Petroski's The Book on the Bookshelf (about how books have been stored) and Simon Garfield's Just My Type (fonts).

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