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The Book

A Cover-to-Cover Exploration of the Most Powerful Object of Our Time

August 2016

Keith Houston (Author)


We may love books, but do we know what lies behind them?

In The Book, Keith Houston reveals that the paper, ink, thread, glue and board from which a book is made tell as rich a story as the words on its pages—of civilisations, empires, human ingenuity and madness. In an invitingly tactile history of this 2,000 year-old medium, Houston follows the development of writing, printing, the art of illustrations, and binding to show how we have moved from cuneiform tablets and papyrus scrolls to the hardcovers and paperbacks of today. Sure to delight book lovers of all stripes with its lush, full-colour illustrations, The Book gives us the momentous and surprising history behind humanity’s most important—and universal—information technology.

Praise for Shady Characters:

"Punctuation is not a mere ornament or a curiosity—it is essential, and we need to know about it. Keith Houston’s history is entertaining and readable."—The Guardian

"Engaging typographical journeys... Houston brings to life a history of ingenuity and imagination."—The Times

"[S]cholarly, highly readable and, on some deeper level, slightly deranged."—The Spectator

"Refreshing... the stories he uncovers along the way are fascinating."—The Telegraph

"Shady Characters might make you look at books... in an entirely new way."—Nature


"Keith Houston's deft history of the object wraps entire civilizations into the telling, propelling us through the evolution of writing, printing, binding and illustration with gusto." — Nature

"...a splendidly comprehensive and tactile object...You can learn a lot from this book." — The Herald

"A love letter to the physical book, this is a fascinating and erudite telling of how it came into being...hugely enlightening...a definitive history of the printed book." — The Yorkshire Post

"This witty and mischievous tome traces the evolution from papyrus to paperback in 448 pages. It’s an optimistic ode to one of mankind’s greatest inventions, which continues to thrive even against the onslaught of e-readers." — The Monocle Minute

"Houston's book about the book—a handsome artefact as well as an informative, and inventive one—traces it from its origins in papyrus and parchment to the era of cheap paper, moveable type and mass production... riveting." — The Scottish Review of Books

"Everybody who has ever read a book will benefit from the way Keith Houston explores the most powerful object of our time. And everybody who has read it will agree that reports of the book’s death have been greatly exaggerated." — Erik Spiekermann

Also By: Keith Houston View all by author...



150 x 216 mm • 448 pages


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