Long before books were mass-produced, scrolls hand copied on reeds pulled from the Nile were the treasures of the ancient world. Emperors and Pharaohs were so determined to possess them that they dispatched emissaries to the edges of earth to bring them back. When Mark Antony wanted to impress Cleopatra, he knew that gold and priceless jewels would mean nothing to her. So, what did her give her? Books for her librarytwo hundred thousand, in fact. The long and eventful history of the written word shows that books have always been and will always be a preciousand precariousvehicle for civilization.
Papyrus is the story of the books journey from oral tradition to scrolls to codices, and how that transition laid the very foundation of Western culture. Award-winning author Irene Vallejo evokes the great mosaic of literature in the ancient world from Greeces itinerant bards to Romes multimillionaire philosophers, from opportunistic forgers to cruel teachers, erudite librarians to defiant women, all the while illuminating how ancient ideas about education, censorship, authority, and identity still resonate today. Crucially, Vallejo also draws connections to our own time, from the library in war-torn Sarajevo to Oxfords underground labyrinth, underscoring how words have persisted as our most valuable creations.