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The Book on the Bookshelf by Henry Petroski

The Book on the Bookshelf (1999)

by Henry Petroski

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Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
I especially liked the appendix "Order, Order", because I, and I am sure everyone else here, have encountered every one of the problems of ordering the books on the shelves. I think he omitted the de facto most popular method - wherever I can wedge it in.
1 vote Mapguy314 | Dec 20, 2018 |
Erudite and meticulously researched, The Book on the Bookshelf is also ungodly repetitive and so, often boring.

I read carefully through opening chapters, got captivated by St. Jerome, then read mostly captions of the many fascinating illustrations and
was surprised not to see John Muir's book invention included.

His search for "the perfect bookend" could end with my Grandmother Bell - she crocheted a beautiful rectangle around a brick. ( )
  m.belljackson | Nov 22, 2018 |
History of the storage and preservation of books.
  LJCain | Aug 9, 2018 |
Henry Petroski, "the poet laureate of technology" and author of the highly acclaimed The Pencil and The Evolution of Useful Things now sets his sights on perhaps the greatest technological advances of the last two thousand years: the making and storing of books--from papyrus scrolls to precious medieval codices to the book as we know it, from the great library at Alexandria to monastic cells to the Library of Congress. As writing advanced, and with it broader literacy, the development of the book was seemingly inevitable. And as books became more common, the question of where and how to store them became more pertinent. But how did we come from continuous sheets rolled on spools to the ubiquitous portable item you are holding in your hand? And how did books come to be restored and displayed vertically and spine out on shelves? Henry Petroski answers these and virtually every other question we might have about books as he contemplates the history of the book on bookshelf with his inimitable subtle analysis and intriguing detail.
  Cultural_Attache | Jul 27, 2018 |

If you're interested in books and the history of their development, this is a very good book. In rereading this book, I've just been pulled back into the details and fascinating history behind the everpresent bookshelf.

I'll admit there's a few lag points in the middle where the author belabors his point overmuch, but there's also a lot of great material rarely discussed elsewhere.

( )
  SESchend | Sep 6, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
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To Karen and Jason, whose bookshelves are full
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My reading chair faces my bookshelves, and I see them every time I look up from the page.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375706399, Paperback)

Consider the book. Though Goodnight Moon and Finnegans Wake differ considerably in content and intended audience, they do share some basic characteristics. They have pages, they're roughly the same shape, and whether in a bookstore, library, or private home, they are generally stored vertically on shelves. Indeed, this is so much the norm that in these days of high-tech printing presses and chain bookstores, it's easy to believe that the book, like the cockroach, remains much the same as it ever was. But as Henry Petroski makes abundantly clear in Book on the Bookshelf, books as we know them have had a long and complex evolution. Indeed, he takes us from the scroll to the codex to the hand-lettered illuminated texts that were so rare and valuable they were chained to lecterns to prevent theft. Along the way he provides plenty of amusing anecdotes about libraries (according to one possibly apocryphal account, the library at Alexandria borrowed the works of the great Greek authors from Athens, had them copied, and then sent the copies back, keeping the originals), book collectors, and the care of books.

Book-lover though he may be, however, Henry Petroski is, first and foremost, an engineer and so, in the end, it is the evolution of bookshelves even more than of books that fascinates him. Pigeonholes for scrolls, book presses containing thousands of chained volumes, rotating lecterns that allowed scholars to peruse more than one book at a time--these are just a few of the ingenious methods readers have devised over the centuries for storing their books: "in cabinets beneath the desks, on shelves in front of them, in triangular attic-like spaces formed under the back-to-back sloped surfaces of desktops or small tabletop lecterns that rested upon a horizontal surface." Placing books vertically on shelves, spines facing outward, is a fairly recent invention, it would seem. Well written as it is, if Book on the Bookshelf were only about books-as-furniture, it would have little appeal to the general reader. Petroski, however, uses this treatise on design to examine the very human motivations that lie behind it. From the example of Samuel Pepys, who refused to have more titles than his library could hold (about 3,000), to an appendix detailing all the ways people organize their collections (by sentimental value, by size, by color, and by price, to name a few of the more unconventional methods), Petroski peppers his account with enough human interest to keep his audience reading from cover to cover. --Alix Wilber

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:45 -0400)

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By the poet laureate of technology. Looks at books, how they have been constructed and stored, especially on bookshelves and in the vertical position. From the papyrus onwards.

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