White Magic: The Age of Paper

Author(s): Lothar Muller


Paper is older than the printing press, and even in its unprinted state it was the great network medium behind the emergence of modern civilization. In the shape of bills, banknotes and accounting books it was indispensible to the economy. As forms and files it was essential to bureaucracy. As letters it became the setting for the invention of the modern soul, and as newsprint it became a stage for politics. In this brilliant new book Lothar Muller describes how paper made its way from China through the Arab world to Europe, where it permeated everyday life in a variety of formats from the thirteenth century onwards, and how the paper technology revolution of the nineteenth century paved the way for the creation of the modern daily press. His key witnesses are the works of Rabelais and Grimmelshausen, Balzac and Herman Melville, James Joyce and Paul Valery. Muller writes not only about books, however: he also writes about pamphlets, playing cards, papercutting and legal pads. We think we understand the 'Gutenberg era', but we can understand it better when we explore the world that underpinned it: the paper age.Today, with the proliferation of digital devices, paper may seem to be a residue of the past, but Muller shows that the humble technology of paper is in many ways the most fundamental medium of the modern world.


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Lothar Muller is editor of the features section of the Suddeutsche Zeitung. He taught general and comparative literature at Berlin Free University and, since 2010, he has been an Honorary Professor at the Humboldt University in Berlin. In 2013 he was awarded the Berlin Prize for Literary Criticism.

PROLOGUE The microbe experiment PART ONE The diffusion of paper in Europe CHAPTER 1 Leaves from Samarkand 1.1 The Arab intermediate realm 1.2 Calligraphy and the Cairo wastepaper basket 1.3 In Scheherazade's world 1.4 Timur and Suleika CHAPTER 2 The rustling grows louder 2.1 The European paper mill boom 2.2 Paper, scholars and playing cards 2.3 The rise of the file: Paper kings, chanceries and secretaries 2.4 The merchant of Genoa and his silent partner 2.5 Ragpickers, writers and chanceries CHAPTER 3 The universal substance 3.1 Marshall McLuhan and the pantagruelion of Rabelais 3.2 Harold Innis, the postal system and Mephisto's scrap 3.3 The world in a page: Watermarks, formats, colors PART TWO Behind the type area CHAPTER 1 The printed and the unprinted 1.1 The pitfalls of a formula: "From script to print" 1.2 The white page 1.3 "Found among the papersE" CHAPTER 2 Adventurers and paper 2.1 Don Quixote, the print shop and the pen 2.2 Picaresque paper: Simplicius Simplicissimus and the Schermesser 2.3 Robinson's journal, ink and time CHAPTER 3 Transparent typography 3.1 The epistolary novel's mimicry of letter paper 3.2 Laurence Stern, the straight line and the marbled page 3.3 The fragmentation of the printed page: Jean Paul, Lichtenberg and excerpts PART THREE The great expansion CHAPTER 1 The demons of the paper machine 1.1 The mechanization of sheet-making 1.2 The loom of time, the French Revolution and credit 1.3 Balzac, journalism and the paper scheme in Lost Illusions 1.4 The secrets of the scriveners: Charles Dickens and Mr. Nemo 1.5 Foolscap and factory workers: Herman Melville and the paper machine CHAPTER 2 Newsprint and the emergence of the popular press 2.1 The boundless resource base 2.2 The newspaper, the price of paper and the lackey 2.3 Emile Zola, the Petit Journal and the Dreyfus Affair CHAPTER 3 Illuminated inner worlds 3.1 Wilhelm Dilthey, historicism and literary estates 3.2 Henry James, Edith Wharton and the autograph chase 3.3 Laterna magica: Paper and interiors CHAPTER 4 The inventory of modernity 4.1 Typewriter paper, deckled edges and white space 4.2 James Joyce, newsprint and scissors 4.3 William Gaddis, the paperwork crisis and punch cards 4.4 Rainald Goetz, the mystic writing pad and the smell of paper EPILOGUE The analog and the digital

General Fields

  • : 9780745672533
  • : Polity Press
  • : Polity Press
  • : October 2014
  • : 229mm X 152mm
  • : United Kingdom
  • : December 2014
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Hardback
  • : Lothar Muller
  • : 352