It does not matter how many books you have, but how good the books are which you have… Seneca


The Book on the Bookshelf  Henry Petroski  New York : Alfred A. Knopf : Distributed by Random House, 1999  Hardcover. 1st ed. x, 290 p. : ill. ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 269-277) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

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Petroski turns to the subject of books and bookshelves, and wonders whether it was inevitable that books would come to be arranged vertically as they are today on horizontal shelves. As we learn how the ancient scroll became the codex became the volume we are used to, we explore the ways in which the housing of books evolved.

Petroski takes us into the pre-Gutenberg world, where books were so scarce they were chained to lecterns for security. He explains how the printing press not only changes the way books were made and shelved, but also increased their availability and transformed book readers into books owners and collectors.

[The quote is from Cicero - A man's mind is the man himself.]

[The quote is from Cicero – A man’s mind is the man himself.]

He shows us that for a time books were shelved with their spines in, and it was not until after the arrival of the modern bookcase that the spines faced out. In delightful digressions, Petroski lets Seneca have his say on “the evils of book collecting“; examines the famed collection of Samuel Pepys – only three thousand titles with old discarded to make room for new [no real collector this!]; and discusses bookselling, book buying, and book collecting through the centuries.

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