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From the first scribbling on papyrus to the emergence of the e-book, this wide-ranging overview of the history of the book provides a fascinating look at one of the most efficient, versatile, and enduring technologies ever developed. The author traces the evolution of the book from the rarefied world of the hand-copied and illuminated volume in ancient and medieval times, From the first scribbling on papyrus to the emergence of the e-book, this wide-ranging overview of the history of the book provides a fascinating look at one of the most efficient, versatile, and enduring technologies ever developed. The author traces the evolution of the book from the rarefied world of the hand-copied and illuminated volume in ancient and medieval times, through the revolutionary impact of Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press, to the rise of a publishing culture in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and the subsequent impact of new technologies on this culture.   Many of the great individual titles of the past two millennia are discussed as well as the range of book types and formats that have emerged in the last few hundred years, from serial and dime novels to paperbacks, children’s books, and Japanese manga. The volume ends with a discussion of the digital revolution in book production and distribution and the ramifications for book lovers, who can’t help but wonder whether the book will thrive—or even survive—in a form they recognize. 


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From the first scribbling on papyrus to the emergence of the e-book, this wide-ranging overview of the history of the book provides a fascinating look at one of the most efficient, versatile, and enduring technologies ever developed. The author traces the evolution of the book from the rarefied world of the hand-copied and illuminated volume in ancient and medieval times, From the first scribbling on papyrus to the emergence of the e-book, this wide-ranging overview of the history of the book provides a fascinating look at one of the most efficient, versatile, and enduring technologies ever developed. The author traces the evolution of the book from the rarefied world of the hand-copied and illuminated volume in ancient and medieval times, through the revolutionary impact of Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press, to the rise of a publishing culture in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and the subsequent impact of new technologies on this culture.   Many of the great individual titles of the past two millennia are discussed as well as the range of book types and formats that have emerged in the last few hundred years, from serial and dime novels to paperbacks, children’s books, and Japanese manga. The volume ends with a discussion of the digital revolution in book production and distribution and the ramifications for book lovers, who can’t help but wonder whether the book will thrive—or even survive—in a form they recognize. 

30 review for Books: A Living History

  1. 4 out of 5

    Claudia

    A beautiful journey through the world of books since their appearance - how they appeared, materials used, trends followed. It contains many interesting details about publishers and editors, writers, also about the types of paper and inventions in the field. And the illustrations are wonderful - a delight for eyes. Recommended to all book lovers :)

  2. 5 out of 5

    Pam

    Very interesting book about the history of books, printing and publishing - from stone tablets to e-books. Many beautiful photos of ancient books of all kinds. Nothing in depth but a very good overview over many years of books.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    This a more or less straight history with very little bias, but the book deserves praise for both its beauty and its sweeping thoroughness. This last bit may sound like an oxymoron, but this is exactly the effect Lyons achieves. He manages to look at book history across time and space, structuring it around several evolutions (scroll to codex, manuscript to print, illiterate/exclusive to literate/accessible, expensive/rare to cheap/ubiquitous, and now print to digital). In each phase he talks ab This a more or less straight history with very little bias, but the book deserves praise for both its beauty and its sweeping thoroughness. This last bit may sound like an oxymoron, but this is exactly the effect Lyons achieves. He manages to look at book history across time and space, structuring it around several evolutions (scroll to codex, manuscript to print, illiterate/exclusive to literate/accessible, expensive/rare to cheap/ubiquitous, and now print to digital). In each phase he talks about exemplary elements as well as outliers. Finally, the illustrations are lavish and evocative, depicting a print history that (however ironically) is mostly about words. I'm looking forward to adding it to my bookshelf.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    As you might expect, the design of this book was great and it just felt nice to hold. It was a pretty basic overview of the history of print and books, so if you already know about this it probably wouldn't offer much - but if not, this is good for a quick browse. I found the chapters about the very earliest forms of books the most interesting; I had never really considered how rare and precious books used to be. After reading this I feel true gratitude for the abundance and ease of access to in As you might expect, the design of this book was great and it just felt nice to hold. It was a pretty basic overview of the history of print and books, so if you already know about this it probably wouldn't offer much - but if not, this is good for a quick browse. I found the chapters about the very earliest forms of books the most interesting; I had never really considered how rare and precious books used to be. After reading this I feel true gratitude for the abundance and ease of access to information that we enjoy today. It also makes you think about the implications of that - how does it affect our society and culture that practically anyone can publish just about anything they want to say?

  5. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Excellent review of the history of the book. It included a great cross-cultural review. I was fascinated by the review of the Mayan texts as well as the insight that the location of the printhouses during the age of enlightenment coincided with the development of science and technology. One forgets that knowlege once could be more easily controlled and that ideas travelled only as fast as a book could be carried. I can now look at my 3100 plus book collection (spanning from the mid 1700s on) fro Excellent review of the history of the book. It included a great cross-cultural review. I was fascinated by the review of the Mayan texts as well as the insight that the location of the printhouses during the age of enlightenment coincided with the development of science and technology. One forgets that knowlege once could be more easily controlled and that ideas travelled only as fast as a book could be carried. I can now look at my 3100 plus book collection (spanning from the mid 1700s on) from a new perspective.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Alicia

    A comprehensive look at books, but it's dryness was its downfall. Maybe I'm spoiled by YA nonfiction that tends to be informational and entertaining, this was just informational and not so much true entertainment. It contains a lot of interesting in material on a variety of subjects including history but also manga, romance, paperbacks, but feels a bit dated.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Edward Sullivan

    An excellent introduction to the history of books, lavishly illustrated and handsomely designed.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Publishers know their market, so it's not surprising that Books: A Living History is gorgeously illustrated and printed on heavy paper and basically catnip for bibliophiles. Printed by Getty and written by Martyn Lyons, an emeritus professor at the University of New South Wales who specializes in the history of the book, Books offers a sweeping, if occasionally surface, look at the history of one of humankind's most revolutionary technologies. Broadly divided into five chronological sections (Anc Publishers know their market, so it's not surprising that Books: A Living History is gorgeously illustrated and printed on heavy paper and basically catnip for bibliophiles. Printed by Getty and written by Martyn Lyons, an emeritus professor at the University of New South Wales who specializes in the history of the book, Books offers a sweeping, if occasionally surface, look at the history of one of humankind's most revolutionary technologies. Broadly divided into five chronological sections (Ancient and Medieval Worlds, The New Culture of Print, Enlightenment and the Masses, The Publisher Arrives, and Knowledge for All), it follows the book from its Mesopotamian inception to the digital age, discussing the evolution of format and style, with frequent asides thrown in on various topics like illustration, copyright, dime novels, cartography, and pivotal or influential bestsellers. It's a whirl-wind (and mostly Western) tour in 213 pages, so while it provides an excellent overview and loads of potential nerdy cocktail party trivia, you may find yourself wishing Lyons had paused long enough on one specific subject to really dig in. Lovely and absolutely loaded with fun factoids - the Nazis had a weakness for Gothic fonts! Tycho Brahe specialized in self-publishing! in the 19th century, Verne and Doyle were vastly outsold by a woman who called herself Marie Corelli who liked to ride up and down the Avon on gondolas! - Books is perfectly calibrated to appeal to history fans, trivia fiends, and - of course- book lovers.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Heather Cain

    I read this book for one of my classes, and my first thought was this is a picture book for book lovers. My course, History of Information Organization and Technologies, I was supposed to read this and discuss what we learned based on the history of books and printing. While it had some beautiful illustrations and photographic images within the pages, I felt it needed a better structure with it's historic value. It was very detailed in explaining each segment and its contents clearly, but it rea I read this book for one of my classes, and my first thought was this is a picture book for book lovers. My course, History of Information Organization and Technologies, I was supposed to read this and discuss what we learned based on the history of books and printing. While it had some beautiful illustrations and photographic images within the pages, I felt it needed a better structure with it's historic value. It was very detailed in explaining each segment and its contents clearly, but it read like an adhd squirrel wrote the book. The history and images were great, but it did not follow a specific structure without almost no transitions. Overall, I would give this to someone in my family that is curious about my profession and the history of books without having to bore them. My friends would love the colorful art work and examples surrounding books without having to struggle through knowing everything in one night.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Justine

    Really interesting to discover the history of the book, to see how it evolved and what it involves. I learnt many things; this book is kind of an introduction, and raises some questions about history, but also about today's books, and our way to handle the situation. I think I could find books about each little chapter for more explanation, so if you already know the history of the book, maybe it will be boring for you! I didn't know everything, and it was a good résumé. There were some mistakes Really interesting to discover the history of the book, to see how it evolved and what it involves. I learnt many things; this book is kind of an introduction, and raises some questions about history, but also about today's books, and our way to handle the situation. I think I could find books about each little chapter for more explanation, so if you already know the history of the book, maybe it will be boring for you! I didn't know everything, and it was a good résumé. There were some mistakes in my edition - I felt that it was translated, too bad! But it was still a good way to learn some things.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Roy Wang

    The book provides a concise, nicely illustrated summary of the grand history of books and the significant role they have played throughout human history. It is probably safe to say without the invention of and easy access to this medium of knowledge preservation and sharing, humans' socio-cultural changes, technological developments, and religious evolutions would not have come about so fast. Our present-day lives would look a lot different from now. Therefore, whether you're a book lover or not The book provides a concise, nicely illustrated summary of the grand history of books and the significant role they have played throughout human history. It is probably safe to say without the invention of and easy access to this medium of knowledge preservation and sharing, humans' socio-cultural changes, technological developments, and religious evolutions would not have come about so fast. Our present-day lives would look a lot different from now. Therefore, whether you're a book lover or not, this book is very much worth reading.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Natalie

    Z -- BIBLIOGRAPHY. LIBRARY SCIENCE. INFORMATION RESOURCES (GENERAL) I reached the last letter in my quest to read one book from each letter class of the Library of Congress Classification system. Despite the fact that my branch does not own a lot of books in the Z's, I found several books I wanted to read. I chose this one as it contains wonderful illustrations of books and printing throughout the ages. It was a great overview of the history of books.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Igor

    I wanted to know more about the history of the books and this book gave me that. It explains all the bigger millstones in the development of the book from the beginnings to the e-book. There are some great quality pictures to accompany that explanations which is making this book more interesting and informative for me. I would recommend this book.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Joan

    Puts everything on your bookshelf into perspective.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jenny

    52 book challenge - a non fiction book

  16. 4 out of 5

    Lorisha A

    Beautiful

  17. 5 out of 5

    Meg

    A great overall guide to the history of the written word and humanity's relationship with books.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lorialivres

    A wonderful, though-provoking and sometimes very moving read!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ambrose Miles

    I love books like this. Informative text, great illustrations.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Aaron

    Even as digital e-books take on a larger role in what libraries do, there can be no question that books of all types are still at the core of our mission. With this work, Lyons skillfully presents an overview of the history of books from their earliest development with ancient cultures such as the Sumerians and the Egyptians to current questions and concerns relating to mobile devices and e-books. Lyon’s book is set up in chronological order with sections dedicated to ancient and Medieval times, Even as digital e-books take on a larger role in what libraries do, there can be no question that books of all types are still at the core of our mission. With this work, Lyons skillfully presents an overview of the history of books from their earliest development with ancient cultures such as the Sumerians and the Egyptians to current questions and concerns relating to mobile devices and e-books. Lyon’s book is set up in chronological order with sections dedicated to ancient and Medieval times, the eighteenth century, the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and the future. Each chapter is built with entries focusing on specific topics such as materials used to make books, their format, major works and authors from the period, the methods and business of publishing, and the role books played in the literacy/education levels of the cultures. These entries don’t have great depth, but each tends to provide a good amount of detail to introduce the topic thoroughly to the reader. The result is a strong sense of the evolution of books, literature, and printing. Libraries are also often highlighted throughout. Each of the entries ranges from one to three pages and is accompanied by high quality images. The images are really used wonderfully to help tell the story. Some are simply sample pages or book covers of works that are being highlighted in the section. Photographs or other forms of art are often used to share with the reader what authors and publishers looked like. One of the most interesting types of images included are representations from the art world throughout the timeline covered that show average people reading. The inclusions of the images really add another dimension to the presentation. One of the things that is most impressive about the book about the book is the fact that it does not focus solely on the use of books in the Western or English-speaking World. There are a number of references to works and publishing information from China, Japan, the Arab World, Africa, and South America. This global approach provides stronger balance, particularly since a number of inventions and trends pre-date their arrival in Europe or North America. This really is a thoroughly enjoyable read. Due to its format, you can pick it up and read an article or two before moving on without being overwhelmed, though you might find its large size and the use of glossy paper a bit heavy to hold for long periods of time. This “coffee table” style format does speak to the quality of the book’s publication. Books: A Living History is definitely worth a read, though don’t be surprised if your friends and family turn to you and laugh that you are reading a book … about books. I know that some of mine did. Just tell them that they should expect no different. You are a librarian!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Andres

    Lavishly illustrated book about the history of books. Half pictures and half text, this is an interesting and informative overview of books from ancient stone tablets to the modern e-books and everything in between. The overall narrative follows the development of book technology, how it affects the society of the time, and how it in turn affects the technology, which leads to more societal changes, etc etc. Fascinating to see how recognizable publishers of today started out hundreds of years ago Lavishly illustrated book about the history of books. Half pictures and half text, this is an interesting and informative overview of books from ancient stone tablets to the modern e-books and everything in between. The overall narrative follows the development of book technology, how it affects the society of the time, and how it in turn affects the technology, which leads to more societal changes, etc etc. Fascinating to see how recognizable publishers of today started out hundreds of years ago, and how far we as people have come along and how much is owed to the information these books have imparted. The text is sometimes a little light and fluffy, with some editing gremlins here and there, but for being essentially an informative coffee table book this can't be beat. Roughly every page spread covers another aspect of book history, and there are a lot of factual tidbits to chew on and mull over, nothing new for book history enthusiasts but plenty of shiny new nuggets for neophytes like me. A definite read for anyone interested in the history of the book, for both the text and the pictures. ["Books" is a little more refined than the similarly styled library "counterpart" of this book---but not surprising since "Books" is a Getty publication.]

  22. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    Today books are seen as merely entertainment to most and an arduous task to others, but overall they are seen as an item everyone has access to. This was not true for much of history. They started out as texts for the scholarly religious and the extremely rich; in other words, the extreme upper echelon of society. Literacy and books were seen as a weapon in the hands of the peasantry. Knowledge was power and with the skill to read came societal demands of equality. Journeying through the timelin Today books are seen as merely entertainment to most and an arduous task to others, but overall they are seen as an item everyone has access to. This was not true for much of history. They started out as texts for the scholarly religious and the extremely rich; in other words, the extreme upper echelon of society. Literacy and books were seen as a weapon in the hands of the peasantry. Knowledge was power and with the skill to read came societal demands of equality. Journeying through the timeline of the book was AMAZING! Books: A Living History provides a concise, but expansive look at the printed word. For most of history I, as a middle class woman, would not have access to literacy, books, and learning. It was also very interesting to see how the form of books took place and how technological advances in paper making and moveable type developed to make print available to the masses. Lastly, I have always been intrigued by the concept of banned books (meaning that as soon as someone tells me I shouldn't read something because it is profane or impure I HAVE to read it) and how even when the peons of society learned to read, those in charge tried to keep them down by banning books. Overall, GO BOOKS! The only reason this lost a star is because of the lack of bibliographic information. I want to know where the information came from.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mjlibrary NDSCS

    002.09 L995 People who love reading usually have a love for books and enjoy the history of books as well. For over 2500 years, books have been documenting history, educating, and entertaining, in a variety of forms. Chapters here show ancient books around the world, how books changed when print books came into being, how mechanization changed the printing process, and the new technologies that are currently affecting books and reading. Literacy, illustrations, prizes and more are discussed. So ar 002.09 L995 People who love reading usually have a love for books and enjoy the history of books as well. For over 2500 years, books have been documenting history, educating, and entertaining, in a variety of forms. Chapters here show ancient books around the world, how books changed when print books came into being, how mechanization changed the printing process, and the new technologies that are currently affecting books and reading. Literacy, illustrations, prizes and more are discussed. So are the enemies of books. Well illustrated, there is a feast for everyone both traditional readers and new readers with electronic readers. Lyons is a leading historian of the book and has held academic posts around the world.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    Truly excellent. A great overview of the history of books, publishing and printing, all rolled into one. Loved all the different types of illustrations - everything from all the different language covers of Harry Potter to medieval woodcuts and the work of William Morris. And this book does what I think every book should do - it leaves you with a bit of inspiration and food for thought. While it was published in 2011, so the sales numbers aren't exactly up to date, it ends with a look at world l Truly excellent. A great overview of the history of books, publishing and printing, all rolled into one. Loved all the different types of illustrations - everything from all the different language covers of Harry Potter to medieval woodcuts and the work of William Morris. And this book does what I think every book should do - it leaves you with a bit of inspiration and food for thought. While it was published in 2011, so the sales numbers aren't exactly up to date, it ends with a look at world literacy and a call to help those who can't yet read learn to. And the book, of course, is the perfect vehicle for that. This was a very satisfying read.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Roy Kenagy

    PW review: http://bit.ly/vnZHKs "In this sumptuously illustrated history of the book, Lyons (Ordinary Writing, Personal Narratives) covers a millennia of changes, from ancient Mesopotamian carvings to Gutenberg’s innovations in printing, through the computer age and the advent of the Internet and e-readers... this approachable and attractive volume summarizes key moments in the evolution of print culture, in a tone suitable for an unfamiliar or general interest reader. Scholars will find nothing PW review: http://bit.ly/vnZHKs "In this sumptuously illustrated history of the book, Lyons (Ordinary Writing, Personal Narratives) covers a millennia of changes, from ancient Mesopotamian carvings to Gutenberg’s innovations in printing, through the computer age and the advent of the Internet and e-readers... this approachable and attractive volume summarizes key moments in the evolution of print culture, in a tone suitable for an unfamiliar or general interest reader. Scholars will find nothing new, and will likely be disappointed by the book’s aggressive superficiality." I'm in it for the pretty pictures.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    Martyn Lyons' handsome coffee-table book is an overview of the development of writing from ancient times to the internet era. The book focuses on the developments in publication technology over the centuries, as well as the social impacts as books moved from being the privilege of the elite to being available to the masses on a global scale. With such a vast field to cover, Lyons is necessarily somewhat cursory in his treatment of most subjects, and there is not much by way of new information her Martyn Lyons' handsome coffee-table book is an overview of the development of writing from ancient times to the internet era. The book focuses on the developments in publication technology over the centuries, as well as the social impacts as books moved from being the privilege of the elite to being available to the masses on a global scale. With such a vast field to cover, Lyons is necessarily somewhat cursory in his treatment of most subjects, and there is not much by way of new information here. However the book is richly illustrated with some quite beautiful reproductions of notable texts and other art works.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Ariadna73

    Check out my review about this book in my blog in Spanish: http://lunairereadings.blogspot.com/2... This book is very beautiful; heavy; printed in high-quality paper. I loved the illustrations in each and every page. I liked the way it explains plainly and simply how the book has evolved until what it is nowadays. I would put this book as a decorative piece in my house; because it is beautiful and intelligent. Check out my review about this book in my blog in Spanish: http://lunairereadings.blogspot.com/2... This book is very beautiful; heavy; printed in high-quality paper. I loved the illustrations in each and every page. I liked the way it explains plainly and simply how the book has evolved until what it is nowadays. I would put this book as a decorative piece in my house; because it is beautiful and intelligent.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    I really appreciated the inclusivity and scope of this book. So often you get nothing but Western developments but here you get a smattering of everything everywhere. With so much going on globally the narrative itself is fragmented but the material it covers is interesting enough that I didn't mind all too much. Even in later chapters about book culture today it was not doom and gloom but managed to pull off an appreciative look at how we got to where we are and what that means for the book.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Dana

    A really delightful book for anyone who loves books as objects and works of art. It's divided into many short sections of no more than a few pages, so it's a quick read of what could have been a dry subject. Great for a quick overview of the history of the written word from scrolls and Gutenberg to early publishing houses and e-books. Gorgeous glossy photos on every page.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Not exactly what I was expecting. It was certainly informative and the pictures were great, but I felt like I was reading a really long and detailed encyclopedia entry. Which in and of itself shouldn't be bad because I like reading the encyclopedia, but I guess I was hoping for something more cohesive.

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