The Social Life of Ink

The Social Life of Ink

Culture, Wonder, and Our Relationship With the Written Word

Book - 2014
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A rich and imaginative discovery of how ink has shaped culture and why it is here to stay

Ink is so much a part of daily life that we take it for granted, yet its invention was as significant as the wheel. Ink not only recorded culture, it bought political power, divided peoples, and led to murderous rivalries. Ancient letters on a page were revered as divine light, and precious ink recipes were held secret for centuries. And, when it first hit markets not so long ago, the excitement over the disposable ballpoint pen equalled that for a new smartphone--with similar complaints to the manufacturers.

Curious about its impact on culture, literature, and the course of history, Ted Bishop sets out to explore the story of ink. From Budapest to Buenos Aires, he traces the lives of the innovators who created the ballpoint pen--revolutionary technology that still requires exact engineering today. Bishop visits a ranch in Utah to meet a master ink-maker who relishes igniting linseed oil to make traditional printers' ink. In China, he learns that ink can be an exquisite object, the subject of poetry, and a means of strengthening (or straining) family bonds. And in the Middle East, he sees the world's oldest Qur'an, stained with the blood of the caliph who was assassinated while reading it.

An inquisitive and personal tour around the world, The Social Life of Ink asks us to look more closely at something we see so often that we don't see it at all.

Publisher: Toronto : Viking, ©2014.
ISBN: 9780670068616
Characteristics: xiii, 377 pages :,illustrations ;,24 cm.


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Nov 25, 2016

Very interesting book. Clearly the author is obsessed with ink and fountained pens. Good for him. I was also brought up having to learn to write with a brush with ink prepared from grinding ink sticks in an inkstone with water. Never suspected all this history behind it until reading it 60 years later in this book. I am not sure that I appreciate the difference, as Professor Bishop has described in his book, between writing long hand using an instrument on paper or typing it out on a keyboard. I seem to think the latter is more economical and perhaps more egalitarian?

Dec 05, 2015

An excellent history of ink, and how it has influenced ours, as well as other societies throughout history. This book has given me a new outlook on writing, and now I'm really looking forward to getting back to writing in long-hand rather than using a keyboard.

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