Paper: Paging Through History
By Mark Kurlansky
2016, W. W. Norton, 978-0-39323-961-4, $27.95 hb.
Reviewed on January 1, 0001
Before the rise of Islam in the seventh century Arabs “had little need for writing material,” writes Kurlansky. Subsequently, “more and more copies of the Holy Book were needed, and each copy had to be made with painstaking accuracy” in beautiful script: “the origin of Arab calligraphy.”
Kurlansky focuses on the importance of paper to scientists, translators and authors of mathematical and medical treatises, and also dwells engagingly on the role paper played in the culinary arts. In addition, he offers colorful details, such as the creation of the first airmail stationary: “special light, thin paper … made for messages sent by carrier pigeon.” This volume offers readers a wealth of information on a material sometimes taken for granted, but which played an enormous role in world history.