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The Book on the Bookshelfby Henry Petroski
Synopses & Reviews
He has been called "the poet laureate of technology" and a writer who is "erudite, witty, thoughtful, and accessible." Now Henry Petroski turns to the subject of books and bookshelves, and wonders whether it was inevitable that books would come to be arranged vertically as they are today on horizontal shelves. As we learn how the ancient scroll became the codex became the volume we are used to, we explore the ways in which the housing of books evolved. Petroski takes us into the pre-Gutenberg world, where books were so scarce they were chained to lecterns for security. He explains how the printing press not only changes the way books were made and shelved, but also increased their availability and transformed book readers into books owners and collectors. He shows us that for a time books were shelved with their spines in, and it was not until after the arrival of the modern bookcase that she spines faced out.
In delightful digressions, Petroski lets Seneca have his say on "the evils of book collecting"; examines the famed collection of Samuel Pepys (only three thousand titles: old discarded to make room for new); and discusses bookselling, book buying, and book collecting through the centuries.
Richly illustrated and wonderfully written, this is the ultimate book on the book: how it came to be and how we have come to keep it.
Book News Annotation:
Technology popularizer Petroski (civil engineering and history, Duke U.) traces how books have been stored and displayed during the course of their evolution from scroll to codex to modern volume. He describes how before Gutenberg and printing, books were so rare and valuable they were chained to lecterns for security, and how books were first shelved with their spines in rather than out.
Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Includes bibliographical references (p. 269-277) and index.
About the Author
Henry Petroski is the Aleksandar S. Vesic Professor of Civil Engineering and Professor of History at Duke University, where he also serves as chairman of the department of civil and environmental engineering. Before moving to Duke in 1980, he was on the faculty of the University of Texas at Austin and on the staff of Argonne National Laboratory.
His books include: To Engineer is Human, which he also adapted for a BBC-television documentary; The Pencil; The Evolution of Useful Things; Design Paradigms; Engineers of Dreams; Invention by Design; and Remaking the World. He also writes the engineering column in American Scientist, and lectures widely.
Henry Petroski has been a Guggenheim Fellow, a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow, and a Fellow of the National Humanities Center. Among his other honors are the Ralph Coats Roe Medal from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the Civil Engineering History and Heritage Award from the American Society of Civil Engineers, honorary degrees from Clarkson University and Trinity College (Hartford, CT), and distinguished engineering alumnus awards from both Manhattan College and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering.
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