White Magic

The Age of Paper

Lothar Müller

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Paper is older than the printing press, and even in its unprinted state it was the great network medium behind the emergence of modern civilization. In the shape of bills, banknotes and accounting books it was indispensible to the economy. As forms and files it was essential to bureaucracy. As letters it became the setting for the invention of the modern soul, and as newsprint it became a stage for politics. In this brilliant new book Lothar Müller describes how paper made its way from China through the Arab world to Europe, where it permeated everyday life in a variety of formats from the thirteenth century onwards, and how the paper technology revolution of the nineteenth century paved the way for the creation of the modern daily press. His key witnesses are the works of Rabelais and Grimmelshausen, Balzac and Herman Melville, James Joyce and Paul Valéry. Müller writes not only about books, however: he also writes about pamphlets, playing cards, papercutting and legal pads. We think we understand the ?Gutenberg era?, but we can understand it better when we explore the world that underpinned it: the paper age. Today, with the proliferation of digital devices, paper may seem to be a residue of the past, but Müller shows that the humble technology of paper is in many ways the most fundamental medium of the modern world.


Einband gebundene Ausgabe
Seitenzahl 352
Erscheinungsdatum 20.01.2015
Sprache Englisch
ISBN 978-0-7456-7253-3
Verlag John Wiley & Sons
Maße (L/B/H) 23.6/15.9/3.2 cm
Gewicht 636 g
Auflage 1. Auflage


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  • Thanks viii

    PROLOGUE The Microbe Experiment ix

    PART ONE The Diffusion of Paper in Europe 1

    CHAPTER 1 Leaves from Samarkand 3

    1.1 The Arab Intermediate Realm 3

    1.2 Calligraphy and the Cairo Wastepaper Basket 10

    1.3 In Scheherazade's World 13

    1.4 Timur and Suleika 17

    CHAPTER 2 The Rustling Grows Louder 22

    2.1 The European Paper Mill Boom 22

    2.2 Paper, Scholars, and Playing Cards 26

    2.3 The Rise of the File: Paper Kings, Chanceries, and Secretaries 31

    2.4 The Merchant of Genoa and His Silent Partner 37

    2.5 Ragpickers, Writers, and the Pulpit 46

    CHAPTER 3 The Universal Substance 52

    3.1 Marshall McLuhan and the Pantagruelion of Rabelais 52

    3.2 Harold Innis, the Postal System, and Mephisto's Scrap 61

    3.3 The World in a Page: Watermarks, Formats, Colors 70

    PART TWO Behind the Type Area 79

    CHAPTER 1 The Printed and the Unprinted 81

    1.1 The Pitfalls of a Formula: "From Script to Print" 81

    1.2 The White Page 85

    1.3 "Found among the Papers ..." 89

    CHAPTER 2 Adventurers and Paper 94

    2.1 Don Quixote, the Print Shop, and the Pen 94

    2.2 Picaresque Paper: Simplicius Simplicissimus and the Schermesser 99

    2.3 Robinson's Journal, Ink, and Time 104

    CHAPTER 3 Transparent Typography 108

    3.1 The Epistolary Novel's Mimicry of Letter Paper 108

    3.2 Laurence Sterne, the Straight Line, and the Marbled Page 115

    3.3 The Fragmentation of the Printed Page: Jean Paul, Lichtenberg, and Excerpts 119

    PART THREE The Great Expansion 127

    CHAPTER 1 The Demons of the Paper Machine 129

    1.1 The Mechanization of Sheet-Making 129

    1.2 The Loom of Time, the French Revolution, and Credit 140

    1.3 Balzac, Journalism, and the Paper Scheme in Lost Illusions 152

    1.4 The Secrets of the Scriveners: Charles Dickens and Mr. Nemo 163

    1.5 Foolscap and Factory Workers: Herman Melville and the Paper Machine 168

    CHAPTER 2 Newsprint and the Emergence of the Popular Press 180

    2.1 The Boundless Resource Base 180

    2.2 The Newspaper, the Price of Paper, and the Patrioteer 189

    2.3 Émile Zola, the Petit Journal, and the Dreyfus Affair 196

    CHAPTER 3 Illuminated Inner Worlds 201

    3.1 Wilhelm Dilthey, Historism, and Literary Estates 201

    3.2 Henry James, Edith Wharton, and the Autograph Hunt 207

    3.3 Laterna Magica: Paper and Interiors 215

    CHAPTER 4 The Inventory of Modernity 226

    4.1 Typewriter Paper, Deckle Edges, and White Space 226

    4.2 James Joyce, Newsprint, and Shears 236

    4.3 William Gaddis, the Paperwork Crisis, and Punch Cards 242

    4.4 Rainald Goetz, the Mystic Writing Pad, and the Smell of Paper 249


    The Analog and the Digital 253

    Notes 265

    Bibliography 274

    Image Credits 292

    Index of Names 293