An enthralling 6,000-year journey through the history of books and reading. An international bestseller.
The bestselling phenomenon - an enthralling 6,000-year journey through the history of books and reading
A FINANCIAL TIMES, ECONOMIST AND MAIL ON SUNDAY BOOK OF THE YEAR
SHORTLISTED FOR THE BRITISH ACADEMY BOOK PRIZE 2023
'Outstanding, universal and unique' NEW YORK TIMES
'A literary phenomenon.' TLS
Long before books were mass-produced, scrolls hand copied on reeds pulled from the Nile were the treasures of the ancient world. Emperors and Pharaohs were so determined to possess them that they dispatched emissaries to the edges of the earth to bring them back.
In Papyrus, celebrated classicist Irene Vallejo traces the dramatic history of the book and the fight for its survival. This is the story of the book's journey from oral tradition to scrolls to codices, and how that transition laid the very foundation of Western culture. And it is a story full of heroic adventures, bloodshed and megalomania - from the battlefields of Alexander the Great and the palaces of Cleopatra to the libraries of war-torn Sarajevo and Oxford.
An international bestseller, Papyrus brings the ancient world to life and celebrates the enduring power of the written word.
A literary phenomenon . . . didactic and daring . . . elegant and richly digressive. * Times Literary Supplement *
'Outstanding, universal and unique' * New York Times *
[A] bestselling phenomenon... Irene Vallejo recounts the birth of literary culture in the ancient world while interweaving dynamic, thrilling tales that underscore and celebrate the power of words to change the world. * Financial Times, Books of the Year *
A mindboggling history of the earliest books... Vallejo is a novelist and she has a storyteller's ability to animate her subjects... and the story she tells is impressively rip-roaring. She draws a six-thousand-year line from the clay tablets of Mesopotamia to the e-reader tablets of today and leaves her readers inspired, invigorated and sincerely grateful for the invention of the book.'* Henry Eliot, Daily Telegraph *
Packed with fascinating insights into literacy in the ancient world... Vallejo is a diligent scholar, excelling with her accounts of the human experience of books in the era. * i news *
Irene Vallejo, a Spanish journalist and scholar, has a writer's passion for books and a classicist's fascination with the way they came to be. She is also imaginative, lively and contemporary. In her hands written texts are not only a sensual pleasure, but living and frequently disruptive... Ms Vallejo has a notable talent for evoking ancient scenes. Her description, for example, of the poet Martial returning to Spain from Rome, near the end of the book, is masterly. * Economist *
This prize-winning Spanish title has a classy jacket and impressive heft, which is only fitting really, since it celebrates the book as an object. More enticingly still, novelist and essayist Vallejo enlivens history with imagination and personal anecdote as she traces the book's lineage from scrolls made of aquatic plant pith to codices and tablets, digressing to show how its development is interwoven with the development of western civilisation. Is Papyrus available as an ebook? Yes, but I'll bet any reader drawn to it is going to want to save up for the hardcover. * Observer *
In this generous, sprawling work... Vallejo sets out to provide a panoramic survey of how books shaped not just the ancient world but ours too. While she pays due attention to the physicality of the book... Vallejo is equally interested in what goes on inside its covers. And also, more importantly, what goes on inside a reader when they take up a volume and embark on an imaginative and intellectual dance that might just change their life. As much as a history of books, Papyrus is also a history of reading. * Guardian *
An excellent, illuminating celebration... Vallejo's vigorous celebration of book culture excels at illuminating the ancient world through contemporary references - including to Margaret Atwood, Bob Dylan and Taxi Driver - and draws revealing parallels between antiquity and today.' * The Irish Times *
[A] masterpiece . . . I am absolutely sure that it will continue to be read when its readers today are already in the afterlife. * Mario Vargas Llosa *
Dimensions: 196mm x 126mm x 34mm