The Paper Trail: An Unexpected History of a Revolutionary Invention
by Alexander Monro
A super, detailed look at the paper in the way it influenced empires, their culture, and religion. This book reaches back to the Tang dynasty to the origins of paper. It stays with China for quite awhile because they were very important to paper in the beginning. Then it moves onto how Buddhist writings helped spread the acceptance of paper. Next, it moves into the Middle East. Finally, it moves into Europe and how the Renaissance, and religious writings there helped move the rest of the world to paper.
I really enjoyed this book. It doesn't delve much into the physical way that paper is made, and I wish it did a bit, but focused wholly on the culture of using paper in government and personal use. There is a lot of detail here. If you like little tidbits about how certain words came about like 'gazette' (a word derived from a Venetian monthly newspaper, published in 1556), you'll love this book. If not, move along.
The author has an extreme passion for books and the way they changed our lives. I would say the middle section of the book about the Middle East is not as strong as the parts about China, and Europe but that's to be expected I think from a non-Arabic speaking author. I also venture a guess that Middle East paper use is not as well researched as in the context of China and Europe.
I really liked this book and now have to make a decision, either to keep it as part of my reference books I collect on China/Taiwan, or sell it to make room for new books. It's certainly a dilemma I now face.