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Paper: Paging Through History

Paper: Paging Through History

Paper is one of the simplest and most essential pieces of human technology. For the past two millennia, the ability to produce it in ever more efficient ways has supported the proliferation of literacy, media, religion, education, commerce, and art; it has formed the foundation of civilizations, promoting revolutions and restoring stability. One has only to look at history’s greatest press run, which produced 6.5 billion copies of Máo zhuxí yulu, Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung (Zedong)—which doesn’t include editions in 37 foreign languages and in braille—to appreciate the range and influence of a single publication, in paper. Or take the fact that one of history’s most revered artists, Leonardo da Vinci, left behind only 15 paintings but 4,000 works on paper. And though the colonies were at the time calling for a boycott of all British goods, the one exception they made speaks to the essentiality of the material; they penned the Declaration of Independence on British paper.

Epilogue: The Technological Fallacy

Chapter 1: BEING HUMAN

Chapter 2: THE MOTHS THAT CIRCLE A CHINESE CANDLE

Chapter 3: THE ISLAMIC BIRTH OF LITERACY

Chapter 4: AND WHERE IS XÁTIVA?

Chapter 5: EUROPE BETWEEN TWO FELTS

Chapter 6: MAKING WORDS SOAR

Chapter 7: THE ART OF PRINTING

Chapter 8: OUT FROM MAINZ

Chapter 9: TENOCHTITLÁN AND THE BLUE-EYED DEVIL

Chapter 10: THE TRUMPET CALL

Chapter 11: REMBRANDT’S DISCOVERY

Chapter 12: THE TRAITOROUS CORRUPTION OF ENGLAND

Chapter 13: PAPERING INDEPENDENCE

Chapter 14: DIDEROT’S PROMISE

Chapter 15: INVITATION FROM A WASP

Chapter 16: ADVANTAGES IN THE HEAD

Chapter 17: TO DIE LIKE GENTLEMEN

Chapter 18: RETURN TO ASIA

Epilogue: CHANGE

Appendix: TIMELINE