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Hardcover / ISBN-13: 9781529343960

Price: £25

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Long before books were mass produced, those made of reeds from along the Nile were worth fighting and dying for. Journeying along the battlefields of Alexander the Great, beneath the eruptions of Mount Vesuvius, at Cleopatra’s palaces and the scene of Hypatia’s murder, award-winning author Irene Vallejo chronicles the excitement of literary culture in the ancient world, and the heroic efforts that ensured this impressive tradition would continue.

Weaved throughout are fascinating stories about the spies, scribes, illuminators, librarians, booksellers, authors, and statesmen whose rich and sometimes complicated engagement with the written word bears remarkable similarities to the world today: Aristophanes and the censorship of the humourists, Sappho and the empowerment of women’s voices, Seneca and the problem of a post-truth world.

Vallejo takes us to mountainous landscapes and the roaring sea, to the capitals where culture flourished and the furthest reaches where knowledge found refuge in chaotic times. In this sweeping tour of the history of books, the wonder of the ancient world comes alive and along the way we discover the singular power of the written word.

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'One can be a masterful philologist and at the same time write like the angels. Irene Vallejo flips communication upside down until she turns her dialogue with the reader into a true literary feast.'
Luis Alberto de Cuenca, ABC
'A very free and very wise and very digressive journey through the world of the book from the creation of the Library of Alexandria to the fall of the Roman Empire; Irene Vallejo has delivered an outstanding, universal and unique book.'
Jordi Carrión, The New York Times
'Irene Vallejo has written an incredible, universal, and unique book which will no doubt become a classic.'
Juan Bolea, El Periódico de Aragón
'It's a joy to read Irene Vallejo's prose, she is such a brilliant creator and full of sensitivity.'
Luis Landero
A literary phenomenon . . . didactic and daring . . . elegant and richly digressive.
Times Literary Supplement