The Evolution of the Book

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Oxford University Press, Apr 23, 1998 - Literary Criticism - 192 pages
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Distinguished scholar and library systems innovator Frederick Kilgour tells a five-thousand-year story in this exciting work, a tale beginning with the invention of writing and concluding with the emerging electronic book. Calling on a lifetime of interest in the growth of information technology, Kilgour brings a fresh approach to the history of the book, emphasizing in rich, authoritative detail the successive technological advances that allowed the book to keep pace with ever-increasing needs for information. Borrowing a concept from evolutionary theory--the notion of punctuated equilibria--to structure his account, Kilgour investigates the book's three discrete historical forms--the clay tablet, papyrus roll, and codex--before turning to a fourth, still evolving form, the cyber book, a version promising swift electronic delivery of information in text, sound, and motion to anyone at any time. The clay tablet, initially employed as a content descriptor for sacks of grain, proved inadequate to the growing need for commercial and administrative records. Its successor the papyrus roll was itself succeeded by the codex, a format whose superior utility and information capacity led to sweeping changes in the management of accumulated knowledge, the pursuit of learning, and the promulgation of religion. Kilgour throughout considers closely both technological change and the role this change played in cultural transformation. His fascinating account of the modern book, from Gutenberg's invention of cast-type printing five hundred years ago to the arrival of books displayed on a computer screen, spotlights the inventors, engineers, and entrepreneurs who in creating the machinery of production and dissemination enabled the book to maintain its unique cultural power over time. Deft, provocative, and accessibly written, The Evolution of the Book will captivate book lovers as well as those interested in bibliographic history, the history of writing, and the history of technology.
 

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Contents

1 Dynamics of the Book
3
2 Incunables on Clay
11
3 Papyrus Rolls
22
4 The GrecoRoman World
34
5 The Codex 100700
48
6 Islam 6221300
57
7 Western Christendom 6001400
68
8 Printing 14001800
81
9 Power Revolution 18001840
98
10 Climax of Books Printed from Cast Type 18401940
114
11 ComputerDriven Book Production
133
12 The Electronic Book
151
Notes
161
Index
173
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