The Paper Trail: An Unexpected History of the World’s Greatest Invention by Alexander Monro - review by John Sutherland

John Sutherland

Pulp Non-Fiction

The Paper Trail: An Unexpected History of the World’s Greatest Invention

By

Allen Lane/The Penguin Press 368pp £20 order from our bookshop
 

By the universal sod’s law of bus travel, two books on the history of paper have trundled into publication simultaneously. I haven’t read Nicholas A Basbanes’s On Paper: The Everything of Its Two-Thousand-Year History (smart title), published in the US by Knopf, but it will have to be very good to match up to Alexander Monro’s own everything on the same subject.

The first point to make about The Paper Trail (another smart title) is that it is exceedingly well informed. The chronological narrative, beginning with prehistoric charcoal scribbling on cave walls and ending with e-paper, is laden with research carried admirably lightly. The book’s learning is, however, spread very unevenly. Monro

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