Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2011-09-12
- Reviewer: Staff
In this sumptuously illustrated history of the book, Lyons (Ordinary Writing, Personal Narratives) covers a millennia of changes, from ancient Mesopotamian carvings to Gutenberg’s innovations in printing, through the computer age and the advent of the Internet and e-readers. Rather than narrate a continuous story, he utilizes two to four page chronological sections with headings such as “Luther’s Bible,” “Books of the Scientific Revolution,” and “Atlases and Cartography.” With such heterogeneous segments, it’s difficult to discern the principle of inclusion or exclusion. Meanwhile, the many illustrations serve as interesting (though non-essential) window-dressing for the text, as with the splendid images from the Book of Kells or the detailed drawings of mechanized printing presses. Larger than a typical hardback yet smaller than a coffee table book, the contents seem similarly torn between a textbook’s dry specificity and the generality of a popular history. However, this approachable and attractive volume summarizes key moments in the evolution of print culture, in a tone suitable for an unfamiliar or general interest reader. Scholars will find nothing new, and will likely be disappointed by the book’s aggressive superficiality. (Oct.)