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Nicholas A. Basbanes
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Descriptions du produit

Extrait

Preface

As a writer of nonfiction, I have devoted a good deal of my life to the study of books in every conceivable context, so a work now on the stuff of transmission itself should come as no surprise to anyone. But in the end, these venerable containers of shared wisdom were merely the launching pad for what became a far wider and much deeper adventure of inquiry, one that still has me turning up stories and ideas that in a world without limits would demand inclusion in these pages—it is that compelling a subject.
 
Beyond paper’s obvious utility as a writing surface, its invention in China during the early years of the modern era made possible the introduction of printing, with the first known devices being stamps made from carved wooden blocks, a process known today as xylography (literally, writing with wood). Not long after the Arab world learned to make paper from the Chinese in the eighth century, the Middle East became a center of intellectual energy, with paper providing the ideal means of recording the thoughts and calculations of Islamic scholars and mathematicians. Making its first toehold in Europe by way of Spain late in the eleventh century, the process moved in the thirteenth to Italy, which became, at about the same time, the cradle of what in later years would be known as the Renaissance. From Europe it made its way to North America and the rest of the inhabited world.
 
The inexorable spread of this versatile material has been told in bits and pieces by a number of paper specialists whose works are thoroughly referenced in my bibliography. While I am certainly mindful of the chronological sweep of this ubiquitous product, a conventional timeline of its discovery and adoption is not the central thrust of this book, even though one of the goals of Part I is nonetheless to provide a selective overview of its glorious history.
 
Instead, my driving interest points more to the idea of paper, one that certainly takes in the twin notions of medium and message but that also examines its indispensability as a tool of flexibility and function. The laser physicist and master origami folder Robert Lang, whom you will meet in Chapter 15, lives by the credo that “anything is possible in origami,” which can pretty much be said about paper itself. Paper is light, absorbent, strong, plentiful, and portable; you can fold it, mail it, coat it with wax and waterproof it, wrap gunpowder or tobacco in it, boil tea in it. We have used paper in abundance to record our history, make our laws, conduct our business, correspond with our loved ones, decorate our walls, and establish our identities.
 
When it comes to pure utility, modern hygienic practice is unimaginable without paper; when used as currency, people will move heaven and earth to possess it. In realms of the intellect, every manner of scientific inquiry begins as a nonverbal spark in the mind, and more often than not that first burst of perception is visualized more fully on a sheet of paper. When it’s used as an instrument of the generative process, innovators of every persuasion can sketch and tinker away on it at will, design buildings and machines on it, compose music and create poetry on it. As a “paper revolution” swept through Europe in the eighteenth century, architects and engineers transformed the manner and the means of the living landscape. The Industrial Revolution in particular is hard to conceive of without its precisely reproduced instruction sheets to guide assembly crews in their various assignments.
 
The word virtual has become, in the computer age, one way of describing a simulated reality that exists quite apart from the concrete world, an alternative existence that is not just a copy but a substitute for the real thing. In the expression of imagery, there is nothing at all new about the concept; people have endeavored to create likenesses of themselves and their surroundings for millennia, with examples to be found in cave paintings prepared thousands of years ago, during the last ice age, many of them impressive to this day for their artistry and execution. By no means unique in this regard, paper has nonetheless been around for centuries, nobly fulfilling that function.
 
When the seventeenth-century patron of the arts Cassiano dal Pozzo set out to assemble a comprehensive collection of visual knowledge, he commissioned a number of prominent artists to make what turned out to be seven thousand watercolors, drawings, and prints in fields that included botany, art, architecture, geology, zoology, and ornithology. Dispersed today among four major institutional collections, what was arguably the world’s first virtual library is known now as the Paper Museum. In more recent times, lithography and photography—the words literally mean “writing with stone” and “writing with light”— used paper as the surface of choice to create and distribute surrogate images.
 
As a force in shaping historical events, paper rarely draws attention to itself, yet its role is evident to varying degrees in scenario after scenario. One telling case in point is the introduction of human flight during the eighteenth century in France, when the Montgolfier brothers used several layers of paper made in the family mill to line the inner skin of the world’s first hot-air balloon. Another example is the American Revolution; historians generally agree that the run-up to the Battles of Lexington and Concord can be said to have begun with the Stamp Act of 1765, which was all about taxing the many ways colonists had come to rely on paper documents in their daily lives. A century later, the refusal of Hindu and Muslim mercenary soldiers in the employ of the British East India Company to bite open paper cartridges greased with animal fat sparked a bloody insurrection known variously today as the Sepoy Mutiny and the First War of Indian Independence.
 
A roll call of political scandals, international incidents, and sensational trials to have paper documents at some point play a crucial role in the unfolding of events would have to include the Dreyfus affair of the 1890s and early 1900s, involving a forged memorandum known as the bordereau; America’s entry into World War I, with the Zimmermann Telegram; the Alger Hiss spy case of the late 1940s, which involved the damning testimony of Whittaker Chambers regarding the notorious Pumpkin Papers; the trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg in 1953, with its purloined sketch of a nuclear implosion device that was crucial in sending both off to the electric chair; and Watergate, precipitated by Daniel Ellsberg’s brazen release in 1971 of the Pentagon Papers. And while the influence of computers is everywhere apparent, it is instructive to note that the earliest machines of any functional significance processed their data on punched paper cards, and that the progenitor of all electronic printing devices—the universal stock ticker—used narrow spools of newsprint to give real-time readouts of financial transactions, revolutionizing forever the way business would be conducted on Wall Street.
 
Not only are we awash in a world of paper; we are awash in a world of paper clichés. George W. Bush defeated Al Gore in 2000 by a “paper thin” margin, the deceit that surrounded the Enron fiasco was built on a “tissue of lies,” and the fragile structure that subsequently collapsed was a “house of cards.” To beat someone to a “pulp” is to inflict appalling injury. To “map out” a plan for something is to come up with a spe- cific course of action. Day in and day out, we are mired in “red tape,” a corollary of being “buried under a mountain of paper,” while a “paper tiger” is either a wimp or a weakling or a fraud, take your pick. I readily admit to playing with a few of them in this book—something being “not worth the paper it is printed on” was irresistible, and it provided the premise for the chapter I call “Face Value.”
 
At the very time I was completing the first draft of this manuscript, the Boston Red Sox—a team I have been following obsessively since my father took me to Fenway Park for the first time in 1953—finished the most spectacular flop in the history of Major League Baseball, squandering a seemingly insurmountable lead of nine games with less than a month to go in the 2011 season and finishing entirely out of the playoffs. Making their collapse doubly painful were predictions made at the start of the season that, with fifteen highly paid All-Stars in the lineup, Boston was by far the best team to take the field that year. Sports Illustrated had picked the Red Sox to win one hundred games and handily dispatch the San Francisco Giants in the World Series; even seasoned sportswriters in New York, home of the archrival Yankees, were impressed by their prospects for a championship.
 
“I can see why people are talking about our going back to the World Series,” one of those highly paid Red Sox, J. D. Drew, had told Dan Shaughnessy, the estimable baseball columnist for the Boston Globe, as opening day drew near in April. “On paper, we have that kind of team.” It was that blasé comment of presumed inevitability—all of it worked out abstractly on an imaginary notation pad—that gave Shaughnessy reason to pause and comment forebodingly, with uncanny prescience, “But it never plays out the way it does on paper, does it?”
 
At a meeting in Hanoi in June 2012, American secretary of defense Leon Panetta presented to Vietnamese minister of national defense Phung Quang Thanh a small maroon diary taken from a fallen North Vietnamese soldier by a U.S. Marine in 1966. In return, Thanh turned over to Panetta a passel of personal letters removed from the body of Army sergeant Steve Flaherty of the 101st Airborne Division after he was killed in action in 1969. The Washington Post summed up the arti- fact exchange by noting that these two relics, from a time when the two countries “were bitter enemies,” had in an instant become “symbols of the evolving U.S.-Vietnamese relationship”—and each was recorded on otherwise unremarkable sheets of paper.
 
My research model for this book has been fairly straightforward, and should be apparent in each chapter. I traveled in China along the Burma Road, because Old China is where the story begins, and I proceeded in due course to Japan, because that was the only place where I could meet with a Living National Treasure papermaker. I spent seven months trying to get a tour of the National Security Agency, in Fort Meade, Maryland, because the cryptologists there pulp one hundred million ultrasecret documents a year (give or take) and send them off for recycled use as pizza boxes and egg cartons. I spent two days at the Crane Paper mill, in Western Massachusetts, because, as Willie Sutton is purported to have famously said, “that’s where the money is”—or, more to the point, that is where all the paper for American currency is made. Since the idea of “disposability” is very much a paper theme, too, the same goes for a Kimberly-Clark mill in Connecticut, where close to a million boxes of Kleenex tissue, and as many rolls of Scott kitchen towels, are made every day. If there’s a common thread to be discerned, it is what Graham Greene sagely called, in one of his novels, “the human factor.”
 
A few years ago, the British Association of Paper Historians noted in a description of its activities that there are something on the order of twenty thousand commercial uses of paper in the world today, and that the organization’s members are interested in each and every one of them. Rest easy, dear reader: I am not about to explore twenty thou- sand different uses of paper here. But if that claim is accurate—and one Pennsylvania company you will meet in Chapter 17 alone has a line of one thousand different products for its output—then the paper- less society we hear being bandied about so much today may not be as imminent as some people suggest. The words of the great Fats Waller seem especially relevant on this point: “One never knows, do one?”

Revue de presse

Praise for
 
ON PAPER
 
“Nicholas Basbanes is an especially congenial writer, a quality he displayed memorably in A Gentle Madness. He does it again most pleasurably in On Paper, a wide-ranging investigation into the “everything” of that ubiquitous and indispensable construction of cellulose fibers whose history paralleled — and made possible — the rise of civilization…Mainly, though, On Paper is a travel book, conducted by the most amiable and civilized of guides.”
-David Walton, Dallas News

“Basbanes has poured his heart and soul into this splendid survey of a beautiful human invention.”
-Philip Marchand, Canadian National Post

“This is not a simple history of paper’s discovery and the spread of the material…Written as a first-hand exploration, On Paper takes a close look at a product so ubiquitous as to be almost invisible and makes the reader see how really amazing it is.  Basbanes reveals how paper changed the world—over and over again.”
-Pamela Toler, Shelf Awareness (Starred Review)

With On Paper, Basbanes, the consummate bibliophile’s bibliophile, offers an erudite, mesmerizing story about how something we consider so everyday has shaped our lives.  In our age of supposedly dying print, Basbanes’s book is at once a compelling scholarly achievement and a provocative invitation to reconsider and celebrate what is truly one of the wonders of the world, that fragile yet enduring skin upon which humanity’s knowledge and vision are tattooed: paper.”
—Bradford Morrow

“A delightful and intrepid guide in this capacious history of paper…A lively tale told with wit and vigor.”
-Kirkus (Starred Review)

“An absolutely fascinating tale.  Told in an engaging, accessible manner, Basbane’s coverage of the topic is wide-ranging, freewheeling, authoritative…An essential, engrossing book that no book lover should be without."
-Publisher’s Weekly (Starred Review)

"A wonderful, fascinating and timely book on a subject some have prematurely declared obsolete. Basbanes reminds us of the vital role the invention of paper has played through the centuries in the dissemination of knowledge and ideas. His stories that run the gamut, from the way paper  is made to a poignant sheet of paper floating down to the sidewalk on September 11, 2001. Not to be missed."           
-Meryle Secrest

“Pretty much irresistible.”                                               
-Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal
 
 
Alfred A. Knopf
October 2013
978-0-307-26642-2


Détails sur le produit

  • Relié: 448 pages
  • Editeur : Knopf (15 octobre 2013)
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ISBN-10: 0307266427
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307266422
  • Dimensions du produit: 24,1 x 16,9 x 3,8 cm
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 5.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (1 commentaire client)
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: 211.081 en Livres anglais et étrangers (Voir les 100 premiers en Livres anglais et étrangers)
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5.0 étoiles sur 5 If it resembles paper it is in the book 6 février 2014
Par bernie
Format:Relié
I have a great time reading about all things paper. I had a slow start as the first sentence in the first chapter tells about the city of Cambulac (Beijing). However because it was quoting the travels of Marco Polo I had to look up the city. Hopefully it will be in the kindle version. Tried Siri but it had no clue.

You will need a good historical back ground or a good dictionary. You just have to have a good background on a wide range of subjects to pick up all the nuances.

We start long before paper and go through its two thousand year history and concluding with how paper is reference in relation to 911.

The chapters overlap chronologically with a different infuses on paper use. In Chapter named "Goddess by the Stream" we get a picture of the paper balloon bombs the Japanese sent through the jet stream to the U.S. in WWII.

There is lots of general information on papermaking which brings back the papermaking classes I had in elementary school.

With the advent of electronics many of the paper functions have been usurped. I wonder if someday it may not meet the same fate as papyrus.

In any event the book is worth re-reading and keeping as a reference. Speaking of reference this book has a fantastic and extensive bibliography.

Paper Man DVD ~ Dean Stockwell
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16 internautes sur 19 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 When he says everything, he means EVERYTHING! 27 août 2013
Par N. B. Kennedy - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
You have to love an author whose favorite scene from a movie (Searching for Bobby Fischer) involves a chess prodigy and a piece of paper!

Nicholas Basbanes' book about the history, uses and importance of paper includes plenty of bits of trivia like this, as well as indepth looks at the invention of paper, its uses down through the ages and its future going forward. It's all very interesting, although it took me awhile to figure out that the book's focus is somewhat split between the making of paper and the usage of paper. Because the author is just as interested in the uses of paper, his possible subject matter was obviously limitless, which explains the wide-ranging nature of the book. "If there's a common thread to be discerned in this strategy," Mr. Basbanes writes of his book, "it is what Graham Greene sagely called, in one of his novels, "the human factor."

Mr. Basbanes visits papermakers, interviews executives at successful paper companies such as Crane, Marcal and Avery, and describes the making of such specialty paper as that used for minting money, an increasingly complex job due to the sophistication of counterfeiters. He delves into the arts, examining the manuscripts of Beethoven, the canvases of Whistler, and the diaries of Da Vinci, and discusses the exacting art of architectural blueprints. He even devotes a chapter to origami and how the intricate folding of paper has advanced the science of launching space telescopes. (Who knew that there were paper-folding algorithms!)

The 400 pages of this book are dense with facts about paper, as the subtitle, "The Everything of its Two-Thousand Year History," so aptly suggests. Depending on your interests, you might find some sections more interesting than others. Mr. Basbanes spends a lot of time with the early colonists of the New World and the American revolutionists and how paper (or the lack of it) figured into their world. He makes a foray into Nazi concentration camps, the Nuremberg trials and the Pentagon Papers. He closes the book with a moving look at the terrorist attacks of 9/11, both the showers of paper mixed in with the rubble and the missing persons posters grieving families papered the city with.

The book is enlivened by the addition of photos throughout, as books are these days, a welcome trend. The only omission I noted was any meaningful discussion of the environmental and human cost of toxin-spewing paper mills. I recently read When We Were the Kennedys, a memoir by a woman raised in Mexico, Maine, who suspects that working at a paper mill sent her father to an early grave. Even she doesn't want to look that closely at the possibility, though. I guess that's someone else's book to write.
6 internautes sur 6 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A Great Overview of Paper's History 26 septembre 2013
Par John Kwok - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
Nicholas Basbanes' "On Paper: The Everything of Its Two-Thousand-Year History" may be among the best nonfiction books published this year. He is a most captivating, often engrossing, storyteller, and one whose latest book may be viewed as the definitive popular history on paper. Basbanes mixes successfully, paper-making technology down through the centuries, pivotal moments in world history where paper has made an important, often lasting, impact, and the biographies of some of the most important papermakers in paper's history. There is a most memorable chapter devoted to the Sepoy Rebellion in India shortly before the United States's own civil war, that could be seen as one last gasp in resurrecting the fortunes of the Mughal Dynasty against the overwhelming influence of the British East India Company. The book closes on a rather somber, though important, note, noting the impact that paper had in tracing those who died and those who survived the 9/11/01 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.
6 internautes sur 7 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Everything and More of Paper's Two-Thousand-Year History 2 octobre 2013
Par J. Paulsonn - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
This is a splendid, expansive, and sometimes astonishing book. Basbanes looks at the medium that is paper and explores the ways that paper, the invisible surface, reveals our culture, influences our psychology, creates our art, comforts us, and remembers us. The subtitle of Nicholas Basbanes' new book, "The Everything of its Two-Thousand-Year History," may sound immodest, but it is more than that. It is difficult to summarize all that this book succeeds in doing.

As a result of my interest in language and writing, I have read books on living languages (The Story of English), dead languages (Ad Infinitum), Alphabets (Letter Perfect), and Printing Fonts (Just My Type), but, until now, never focused on the medium that made all of these possible.

Basbanes provides a wide-ranging examination of the earliest paper making in China then follows it geographically to Japan, Western Asia, the Middle East, Europe and North America (Latin America is oddly not included), and includes his own travels in search of paper as well. After reading about the process of paper making, which is always the same but varies endlessly by the ingredients and specialized techniques used, I find myself wanting to visit a paper museum just to see all the possibilities that Basbanes discusses.

The author makes unusual and unexpected connections as he starts one chapter with the role that paper played in the Sepoy Rebellion in pre-Raj India and closes it with connections to cigarette papers and the economic and human costs of tobacco smoking. In another, he begins with the invention of the spinning wheel and explains why it made it worth Gutenberg's time to tinker with moveable metal type.

Basbanes extensively examines the way paper's ingredients affected its role, the uses that people made of it, and its effects on society. Infected rags imported from Europe to make paper, for example, were blamed for a plague from 1636-38 in England. On the other hand, English law encouraged people to bury the dead in woolen shrouds rather than linen ones, since linen (and other fabrics) was needed for paper.

Basbanes' clear explanation of how paper came to the North American colonies and who depended on it, led me to a deeper understanding of the Stamp act and why it so incited the American Colonists against the Prime Minister George Grenville, the Parliament, and the English Crown.

The chapter on the role of paper in creating, proving, and revealing individuals' identities includes the fascinating story of a well-papered corpse used to mislead the Germans about the next Allied invasion after North Africa. In another discussion, the primary reliance on document evidence--on paper--in the Nuremberg Trials after WWII, rather than on the more open-to-question survivor testimony, again shows the importance of paper.

The role of historical documents is explored in depth: from discovering forgeries to methods used to repair the authentic, including Adolf Hitler and Neville Chamberlain's 1938 "appeasement" document, about which antiquarian Kenneth W. Rendell said, "This is the document that starts World War II."

Leonardo DaVinci is used to show how paper is the only writing surface that allows brainstorming, planning, and notation. He literally built ideas on paper, using a stylus to make indentations on the surface, and then darker and more permanent inks and charcoal to finish. Leonardo DaVinci is a man whose greatness would be unknown if not for the paper notebooks that survive with those very ideas.

Other paper-related stories include:
--ways to prevent and identify counterfeit money: not only the inclusions and security features, but also the intangibles such as the feel, snap, and sound of real money.
--Japanese paper balloons to bomb the US in WWII and the conflagrations caused by the bombing of Japanese cities--all basically made of paper. Reconstructing shredded documents from the Stasi after the reunification of Germany and the many unwelcome revelations that followed.
--The real life story of the importance of paper in the rescue of Americans trapped in the Canadian ambassador's home, a story told by the movie "Argo."

As excited as I was by this book, I found the sections on origami and fine-press printing less satisfying, full of people and their credentials rather than of the role of paper in what they were doing. The final sections more than make up for any such concerns. Called "Elegy in Fragments," they examine the events of 9/11 to show the emotional power and historical permanence of this ephemeral product: paper. The role that paper played in the catastrophe brought tears to my eyes.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in paper and the role it has played in our lives and our history. If paper-making technique seems too dry and technical for your taste, then, if you must, skim section I and move on to section II and the broader discussion of paper. But whatever you do, do not miss out on this amazing book.
6 internautes sur 7 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 The history of paper is also the history of civilization. Lively, informative and an amazingly fun read! 30 septembre 2013
Par Kcorn - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
To understand this book's main focus beyond the obvious - paper and its uses - it is helpful to understand what the book is not: a chronological or traditional history. And I'm grateful for that because the author writes that the book is "about the idea of paper' as well as its vital place in world civilization. Think of how you use paper and it might be easy to list money, stamps, and notebooks. Or maybe mailing envelopes. Thank you notes.

But author Nicolas A. Basbanes goes far beyond those common items and describes in impressive detail how politics, international incidents, wars, and more were all affected by important documents, vital illustrations, and other crucial information dependent on paper. He certainly convinced me that American as well as world civilization might never have occurred in exactly the same way if not for paper. Numerous examples are given, from the Pentagon Papers to a forged memorandum crucial to the Dreyfus affair - and much more.

The scope and depth of the book is impressive and Basbanes didn't confine his research to relatively accessible locations. He didn't turn to experts he could simply interview over the phone. He also traveled widely, not only in the U.S but also internationally. In Japan he met with an actual Living National Treasure papermaker. He was persistent - and finally successful - in gaining access to the National Security Agency in Fort Meade, Maryland to see where approximately one hundred million ultra-secret documents are pulped annually, often recycled into the pizza boxes and egg cartoons used by the average consumer.

This is only a very small sampling of what can be found inside this wonderful and intriguing work. I thought perhaps I'd find it dry, overly detailed, and dull. There is certainly plenty of the detail I'd anticipated but it is far from dull. Instead, Basbanes's dedication and passion is evident. Illustrations and photos interspersed among the pages are a bonus - examples include a photo of the Living National Treasure papermaker, a copy of the earliest known illustration of a stamping mill for preparing paper pulp, the entryway to to the treasure vault of the Folger Shakespeare Library. They add resonance to the book.

Read the first few pages and I'm betting you'll be hooked, eager to learn more. Very highly recommended!
9 internautes sur 11 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Thorough on culture, but missing nitty-gritty about paper itself 6 novembre 2013
Par Lisa - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
"On Paper" aims to describe the meaning and uses of paper from all angles and throughout history. The author has done the work, and looked at paper around the world, thoughout history, from its most basic to art and to high technoligy; with an (over) abundance of detail.

While you have to admire the detail and passion that comes through, the book fails to actually get at the core of paper - at least for me, I want to understand the paper as a physical substance, but there's little detail past handwaving on the various steps of papermaking. The author seems less interesed in the physical stuff than in the idea of paper... or perhaps he knows it so well that he takes it for granted. There is a wearying amount of life details about various people (and places) who have or had sometime in history something to do with making, manufacturing, researching, storing, repairing, collecting, selling, buying, or using paper.

The chapters on paper money and especially the one on espionage were quite interesting, though.
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