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A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel
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A History of Reading (original 1996; edition 1997)

by Alberto Manguel

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3,050452,763 (4.08)102
Member:chancery76801
Title:A History of Reading
Authors:Alberto Manguel
Info:Penguin (Non-Classics) (1997), Paperback, 384 pages
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A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel (1996)

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English (32)  French (5)  Spanish (3)  Dutch (2)  Norwegian (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (44)
Showing 1-5 of 32 (next | show all)
My biomom gave me her copy of this after a visit in 1998: I honestly can't recall which visit, though there were only two. The book is lush with bibliocomfort and I kneaded the pages four seemingly months on end. I would like to scurry about within it again. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
Quella che racconta Alberto Manguel non è la storia della lettura, ma è, appunto, una storia della lettura: soggettiva e unica, e proprio per questo di tutti. Infatti, alla dissertazione letteraria, Manguel aggiunge annotazioni personali, passi autobiografici, aneddoti che dissacrano la letteratura in quanto scienza e che invece sanciscono la superiorità della lettura e, soprattutto, dei lettori. Così, dopo aver chiamato in causa autori come Plinio, Dante, Cervantes. Victor Hugo, Rabelais e Borges, Manguel parla della forma del libro, dei libri proibiti, del valore delle prime pagine, di cosa vuol dire leggere in pubblico e, al contrario, dentro la propria testa. E poi, ancora, del potere del lettore, della sua capacità di trasformare e dare vita al libro, quanto e forse più dell'autore stesso, della follia dei librai e del fuoco sacro che divora ogni vero appassionato di storie.

"Un braccio abbandonato lungo il fianco, l’altro piegato a sorreggere la testa, il giovane Aristotele legge languidamente un papiro che tiene srotolato in grembo, sui morbidi cuscini di un seggio, i piedi confortevolmente incrociati. Infilando con due dita un paio di occhiali a molla sul naso ossuto, un Virgilio inturbantato e barbuto sfoglia le pagine di un volume rilegato in un ritratto dipinto quindici secoli dopo la sua morte.

Seduto su un ampio scalino, accarezzandosi graziosamente il mento, san Domenico è assorto nella lettura del libro che tiene spalancato sulle ginocchia, dimentico del mondo. Due amanti, Paolo e Francesca, si stringono l’uno all’altra sotto un albero, leggendo il verso che segnerà il loro destino; Paolo, come san Domenico, si sfiora il mento con la mano; Francesca tiene il libro aperto, con due dita sotto una pagina che non verrà mai raggiunta. Diretti alla loro scuola di medicina, due studenti islamici si fermano per consultare un passo su uno dei libri che portano. Indicando la pagina di destra del libro che tiene in grembo, Gesù interpreta ciò che ha letto agli anziani del Tempio, i quali, attoniti e restii, sfogliano vanamente le pagine dei rispettivi tomi in cerca di una confutazione.
Bella come quando era viva, vegliata da un attento cagnolino, la nobildonna milanese Valentina Balbiani sta leggendo un libro di marmo sdraiata sul proprio sarcofago. Lontano dal tumulto cittadino, tra sabbie e spuntoni di roccia, san Gerolamo, come un vecchio pendolare in attesa del suo treno, legge un manoscritto formato tabloid mentre il paziente leone gli fa compagnia accucciato in un’angolo. Il grande umanista Erasmo da Rotterdam partecipa all’amico Gilbert Cousin un brano divertente del libro che sta leggendo, spalancato sul leggio.

Inginocchiato fra i cespugli di oleandri, un poeta indù del Seicento si tormenta la barba riflettendo sui versi che ha appena letto senza riuscire a coglierne interamente il sapore, stringendo nella sinistra un libro dalla legatura preziosa. In piedi davanti a una lunga fila di scaffali rozzamente tagliati, un monaco coreano tira fuori una delle ottantamila tavolette delle Tripitaka Koreana, antiche di sette secoli, e la tiene davanti a sé, leggendo con silenziosa attenzione. “Study To Be Quiet” è il motto inciso su una vetrata dall’ignoto artista che vi ritrasse il pescatore e saggista Izaak Walton intento a leggere un libriccino sulla sponda del fiume Itchen, presso la cattedrale di Winchester.

Completamente nuda, una ben pettinata Maria Maddalena, dall’aria assai poco pentita, sta sdraiata su un panno steso sopra una roccia nel deserto, leggendo un grosso volume illustrato. Tutto compreso del proprio ruolo, Charles Dickens impugna l’edizione tascabile di un suo romanzo, leggendolo a un pubblico ammirato. Appoggiato al parapetto di pietra del Lungosenna, un giovane è immerso nella lettura di un libro di cui ci piacerebbe conoscere il titolo. Spazientita, o forse solo annoiata, una madre tiene aperto un grosso volume davanti al figlioletto dalla rossa chioma, il quale compita le parole seguendo le righe con un dito.

Il cieco Jorge Luis Borges strizza gli occhi per seguire meglio un lettore invisibile. In un’ombrosa foresta, seduto su un tronco muscoso, un giovane regge con entrambe le mani un volumetto leggendo nella pace più assoluta, padrone del tempo e dello spazio. Sono tutti lettori, e i loro gesti sono i miei stessi gesti; io condivido con loro il piacere, la responsabilità e il potere che derivano dalla lettura."

Non sono solo… E tu, amico lettore bibliomane, come leggi? Questo blogger legge per sapere quello che pensa, ma dopo di averlo scritto. Soltanto la scrittura, infatti, riesce a mettere in moto la sua mente ... ( )
  AntonioGallo | Nov 2, 2017 |
“Real books disgust the totalitarian mind because they generate uncontrollable mental growth – and it cannot be monitored.”
John Taylor Gatto, A Different Kind Of Teacher, p. 82.

“So often, a visit to a bookshop has cheered me, and reminded me that there are good things in the world.”
– Vincent Van Gogh

“If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Whether you are a reader, student, a teacher, a writer, a researcher, an editor, a scholar, or someone who loves books, you have undoubtedly experienced the feeling of being swept away by words. Individuals of all types, who use the written word as a form of expression, often showcase in one way shape or form, a new world, a different world, one of possibilities, one of vision, one of depth. Such instances often leave the reader feeling thankful for having experienced what they just did.

In similar fashion, the author of the following book, Mangel, paints a historical picture with such clarity and precision that it allows the reader to journey through the pages of time as if we were right there with other readers, even sampling actions and thoughts at times.

A History Of Reading by Alberto Manguel is an intriguing and in depth overarching overview of most circumstances that involve reading throughout the pages of history.

The book is essentially a conjunction of two different elements: part personal diary and part scholarly research.

Cogent and incisive, Manguel does not hesitate in delving into the full spectrum that encompasses a bibliophile’s delight, weaving through countless historical instances which home in on crucial events around the history of books and reading.

For instance, the author not only covers absorbing anecdotes, individuals and the origins of reading, but also curious ventures of prominent individuals who had prodigious libraries of all types, one of which insisted on having his library travel with him.

Manguel notes:

“In the tenth century, for instance, the Grand Vizier of Persia, Abdul Kassem Ismael, in order not to part with his collection of 117,000 volumes when travelling, had them carried by a caravan of four hundred camels trained to walk in alphabetical order.”[1]

A bibliophile to boot, no doubt!

Beyond that, the book also features intriguing anecdotes of a wide range which infuse into the reader full range of emotions that readers of all types experience. Regarding this topic, the author states:

“The act of reading establishes an intimate, physical relationship in which all the sense have a part: the eyes drawing the words from the page, the ears echoing the sounds being read, the nose inhaling the familiar scent of paper, glue, ink, cardboard or leather, the touch caressing the rough or soft page, the smooth or hard binding; even the taste; at times, when the reader’s fingers are lifted to the tongue.”[2]

Manguel also does a fine job of making sure the reader gets a taste of what it would have been to be a reader throughout other distinct time periods.

Additionally, Manguel covers the Library of Alexandria, book thieves, reading the future, ancient librarians, and much more.

Another noteworthy historical point of consideration examined was the relentless censorship that governments have undertaken of books. Such immoral instances show the inherent fear governments have of educated individuals due to the salient self-sufficiency and power that books can impart.

As the author soberingly contemplates:

“As centuries of dictators have shown, an illiterate crowd is easiest to rule; since the craft of reading cannot be untaught once it has been acquired, the second-best recourse is to limit its scope. Therefore, like no other human creation, books have been the bane of dictatorships.”[3]

Given that we are in an age where censorship of the written and spoken word is increasing across social media platforms and through many media outlets as well, such words should be ruminated upon deeply. Modern society is once again entering into an crucial age of censorship, and in this new age the excuse for it is the meme of “Fake News”, which is being bandied about relentlessly . This is leading to an unprecedented tidal wave of censorship by those in power. And as history shows, it’s probably going to get much worse.

Manguel speaks about this same issue:

“Absolute power requires that all reading be official reading; instead of whole libraries of opinions, the ruler’s word should suffice.”[4]

And the ruler’s words, in modern times, comes mostly through the mainstream media.

Nothing frees a mind more than a book, for it allows readers to be self-sufficient and be able to be free to the fullest extent of the word. That’s why historically, books have always been dangerous.

With that said, the book covers much more than mere censorship, and censorship is only a fraction of the totality collated by the author. The book still covers a kaleidoscope of information to satiate the curious reader.

Regardless though, books are to be enjoyed, and the ironic part is that, reading a book about reading made me want to read even more than ever before. And perhaps, this book can do the same for you.

__________________________________________________​
Source:
[1] Alberto Manguel, A History Of Reading, p. 193.
[2] Ibid., p. 244.
[3] Ibid., p. 283.
[4] Ibid., p. 283. ( )
  ZyPhReX | Apr 25, 2017 |
Very much enjoyed this book. Very eclectic and free associational. Not a timeline history at all. Takes on issues like reading to self, reading aloud, stealing books. And then finishes with an afterword that is an alternative version of this book. ( )
1 vote idiotgirl | Jan 12, 2016 |
I can't quite remember when I read this (probably in the mid 00's) but I remember being amazed. ( )
  joeydag | Jul 23, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Alberto Manguelprimary authorall editionscalculated
Christine Le BœufTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Davids, TinkeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hirte, ChrisTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sandved, Arthur O.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
"But who shall be the master? The writer or the reader?" -Denis Diderot
To Craig Stephenson,
"That day she put our heads together,
Fate had her imagination about her,My head so much concerned with outer

Yours with inner weather.
-After Robert Frost-
"Reading has a history." -Robert Darnton, The Kiss of Lamourette, 1990
"For the desire to read, like all the other desires which distract our unhappy souls, is capable of analysis." -Virginia Woolf, "Sir Thomas Browne", 1923
The reader became the book; and summer night
Was like the conscious being of the book.
-Wallace Stevens.
Dedication
TO CRAIG STEPHENSON,
That day she put our heads together,
Fate had her imagination about her,
My head so much concerned with outer,
Yours with inner weather.
-- After Robert Frost --
To the reader
To the Reader

Reading has a history - Robert Darnton

For the desire to read, like all the other desires which distract our unhappy souls, is capable of analysis. - Virginia Woolf

But who shall be the master? The writer or the reader? - Denis Diderot
First words
One hand limp by his side, the other to his brow, the young Aristotle languidly reads a scroll unfurled on his lap, sitting a cushioned chair with his feet comfortably crossed.
Quotations
I could perhaps live without writing. I don't think I could live without reading. Reading - I discovered - comes before writing. A society can exist - many do exist - without writing, but no society can exist without reading. (p. 7)
"There are those who, while reading a book, recall, compare, conjure up emotions from other, previous readings," remarked the Argentinian writer Ezequiel Martinez Estrada. "This is one of the most delicate forms of adultery." (pg. 20)
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0140166548, Paperback)

This wide-ranging and erudite exploration of the topic of reading is suffused with the spirit of Manguel's fellow Argentinian Jorge Luis Borges. Manguel takes us through the history of reading as if leading us room by room through the infinite library Borges constructed in one of his famous stories. Manguel's approach is not chronological, but thematic. His chapter topics jump from attempts to censor reading to the physical surroundings favored by readers, from the limitations of translations to the esotericism of books written for a restricted readership. Throughout he moves easily through time and geography to quote anecdotes and examples from diverse sources. Manguel's enthusiasm, and the impressive breadth of his reading, will make his readers eager to rush to the nearest library.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:05:05 -0400)

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