Nicholas Basbanes is author of a trilogy on all things book-related including “A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books,” In his latest, “On Paper: The Everything of Its Two-Thousand Year History,” he considers everything from paper’s invention in China two thousand years ago, which revolutionized human civilization, to its crucial role in the unfolding of historical events, political scandals, and sensational trials: from the American Revolution to the Pentagon Papers and Watergate.
Basbanes writes of his travels to get to the source of the story—to China, along the Burma Road, and to Japan, whose handmade paper, washi, is as much an expression of the human spirit as it is of craftsmanship . . . to Landover, Maryland, home of the National Security Agency and its one hundred million ultra-secret documents, pulped by cryptologists and sent to be recycled as pizza boxes and egg cartons . . . to the Crane Paper mill of Dalton, Massachusetts, a seventh-generation family-owned enterprise, the exclusive supplier of paper for American currency since 1879 . . . and to the Kimberly-Clark mill in New Milford, Connecticut, manufacturer daily of one million boxes of Kleenex tissue and as many rolls of Scott kitchen towels.
“On Paper” guides us through paper’s inseparability from human culture. We’ll revisit our conversation with Nicholas Basbanes from November 2013 on Thursday’s AU.