By Nicholas A. Basbanes
Alfred A. Knopf, $35.00, 430 pages
First of all, this book has one of the all-time best attributions of all time: “By a Self-Confessed Bibliophiliac.” Nicholas A. Basbanes, you had me at bibliophiliac.
This is a book about paper in a digital age. In a world that goes increasingly online, have we really considered what ‘paperless’ means? Maybe in a historical sense and maybe for our telephone bills, but certainly not what it might mean in our bathrooms. And what about the impact of seeing someone’s handwriting, that individuality and sense of connectedness?
“The paperless society we hear bandied about so much today may not be as imminent as some people suggest.”
Basbanes covers the history of paper, from the Orient to Islamic Spain, to what it means for printing and the expansion of knowledge, to its role in modern hygienic practices. A world without paper would be largely unrecognizable to us, as paper has become a crucial part of history, politics, law, and economics. He makes the mundane of paper seem mystical.
On Paper: The Everything of Its Two-Thousand-Year History is an entertaining exploration into paper’s crucial role – everywhere from scandal to Kleenex. It’s mostly a very readable book, which only occasionally runs a bit dry. This is a great read for fellow bibliophiliacs.
Reviewed by Axie Barclay