Authors of Invention: The Amazing Men and Women Who Changed the Way Writers Write and Readers Read

By Abramson, Marla; Barsanti, Chris et al. | Book, November-December 2001 | Go to article overview

Authors of Invention: The Amazing Men and Women Who Changed the Way Writers Write and Readers Read


Abramson, Marla, Barsanti, Chris, Christ, Mary, Gilmore, Jennifer, Jepsen, Cara, Langer, Adam, Santow, Dan, Sullivan, James, Wilson, Steve, Book


It took more than one writer's imagination to produce that novel that's standing on your bookshelf. Before there could be a book, someone had to invent the paper it was printed on. Someone had to invent a way to put that print on the page. Someone had to figure out how to make copies of those words. Somewhere along the line, someone had to come up with the idea of a novel. Throughout the history of literature, between the time paper was created and word processing was invented, there have been hundreds of spectacular innovations that have affected writing and reading. Before Murasaki Shikibu, there was no such thing as a novel. Before Jan Amos Comenius, there was no such thing as a children's book. Before Charles Dickens, no one had heard of a literary tour. Before Aldus Manutius, there was no such thing as a paperback book, and before Sir Allen Lane, there was really no place you could buy one.

Before Harriet Beecher Stowe, no one had heard of a book besides the Bible selling a million copies. These are the people--some obscure, some not so obscure--who have affected the course of human history by changing the way we read and write.

Eunuch Accomplishment

T'SAI LUN

THE MAN WHO MADE PAPER

Stone tablets had become a drag. And silk sheets were better for sleeping in than writing on. Enter T'sai Lun, the second-century eunuch who revolutionized the way we read by introducing paper to the Chinese court circa 105 A.D. Lun, a court official, was later promoted by Emperor Ho-Ti for his concoction of boiled-and-pressed tree bark, hemp, rags and fishnet. While some dispute whether Lun was the first to make paper, he was certainly the smartest: He got it in writing. Since then, every world-class writer has gotten between the sheets. After all, said William Faulkner, paper was one of only four things needed in his trade--the other three being "tobacco, food and a little whiskey."

Just Your Type

JOHANNES GUTENBERG

INVENTOR OF MOVABLE TYPE

Before the middle of the fifteenth century, books were not really salable commodities; they were works of art that took months of excruciating labor to reproduce by hand. Gutenberg changed all that in 1450 when he invented movable type. Instead of writing each line by hand, or carving an entire page out of wood and reproducing it, printers could now make precise metal letters that could be moved around in any combination and allow the cheap mass production of books. Born around 1400, Gutenberg moved to Strasbourg, France, as a young man to work as a craftsman. He returned to Mainz, Germany, in 1450, where he set up his printing shop and printed the Bible associated with his name. "The big difference was that before [Gutenberg], people traveled to the book; now books could travel with you," says Johanna Drucker, professor of media studies at the University of Virginia. "For the masses," says Michael Hart, founder of the Project Gutenberg Web site, "it's [as important as the invention of] the wheel, language, writing or the plow."

Novel Authors

MURASAKI SHIKIBU AND MIGUEL DE CERVANTES

AUTHORS OF THE WORLD'S FIRST NOVELS

As with gunpowder and noodles, Asia got to the novel first. In eleventh-century Japan, Shikibu, a thirty-three-year-old widow and mother, became an attendant to Empress Akiko, who had heard the tales of the era so often that she had become bored beyond reason and asked for fresh entertainment. Shikibu soon got to work, and after fifty-four chapters of mini sagas, she had written The Tale of Genji. Newly translated by Royall Tyler, Shikibu's novel concerns the title character--a favorite member of the emperor's court--and his several wives and mistresses. Shikibu follows Genji and observes such seemingly modern literary topics as the underbelly of marriage and courtship, sexual jealousy and family dysfunction. "In the end," says Tyler of the novel that many consider to be the world's first, "one feels as though one has looked through a small but very clear window into a spacious world. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Authors of Invention: The Amazing Men and Women Who Changed the Way Writers Write and Readers Read
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.