Write All Along
New books explore the history of the written word
We’ve always known we were word nerds. (Or rather, logophiles.) But we only just learned we’re equally interested in the history of written communication. Here, three new books--all with double-entendre titles, we might add--that celebrate putting ink to paper.
Did you know that the @ symbol, or arobase, initially meant “at the rate of”? (That is, until it was co-opted by a 1970s early Internet engineer not named Al Gore.) Do you have any clue why paragraphs were originally indented? (It was to leave room for the pilcrow, of course.) And can you guess what the heck an interrobang is? (It’s a marketing invention, go figure.) Keith Houston’s new book about “the secret life of punctuation, symbols and other typographical marks” reveals all--with the wit and wisdom of Lynne Truss or Bill Bryson.
Before the era of e-ink and backlighting, there was this finicky little thing called paper. (Remember paper?) Such is the subject of Nicholas A. Basbanes’s new book, which begins in ancient China with the invention of papermaking and ends in modern times at a Connecticut Kleenex mill. Basbanes’s passion for paper is infectious, and it’s fun to learn about its uses throughout the ages. Who knows? You may even want to splurge for the non-Kindle version of the book.
Simon Garfield captivated us with his exploration of fonts in Just My Type and cartography in On the Map. Now he’s done it again with his newest book, which explores the impact of letter writing. Our favorite chapter takes on the history of the love letter. Reading the fiery correspondence between Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller is enough to make anyone want to play romantic scribe.