Books: A Living History

Article excerpt

Martyn Lyons. Books: A Living History. Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2011.

This book tells the story of the book, an effective, influential technology that for over 2,500 years, in a lot of different manifestations--from Sumerian cuneiform tablets to today's e-books--has been used to document, educate, and inform.

Martyn Lyons, a historian who has published widely on the history of the book and reading, notes that the historical development of the book and literacy rates that grew over time took place in tandem, with the latter getting a major boost when the printing press, which was invented in the mid-fifteenth century, made books more accessible to the masses. (Prior to the printing press, in the ancient and medieval worlds, the ability to read was limited to small groups of political and religious elites.) From the 1500s on, books burgeoned and many new genres arose like atlases, scientific treatises, and reference works from the Age of Discovery and the Enlightenment. …