Paper: An Elegy

Paper: An ElegyPaper: an Elegy, by Ian Sansom. Published by William Morrow in 2012. 230 pp.

This is an impassioned idiosyncratic history of paper, all its great varieties of uses, and its immeasurable impact on mankind. The printed book is of course discussed but there are also fact-filled and story-rich chapters on the making of paper, paper and maps, paper as money, paper as official documents, paper and artists, paper as advertisement, paper and games, paper as origami, as well as a brief chapter on some of the oddest uses of paper. Paper clothes? Paper boats? Roads surfaced with paper? There appears to be no end to the creative uses of paper by some enterprising soul.

Sansom makes an elegant plea for greater respect for this everyday material, while at the same time entertaining us with fascinating trivia about the making and uses of paper throughout history. Sansom has apparently scoured all of literature and all relevant works of nonfiction to find quotes, facts and opinions about the various aspects of paper. His extensive bibliography is testimony to that. Needless to say, the paper that this book is printed on is of the highest quality and very attractive.

You will probably never read a book, or blow your nose, or hand over a five dollar bill without giving a thought to the amazing properties and history of paper once you have read this book.

Reviewed by Bob Sibert