Portable Magic by Emma Smith

I learned of this book through one the many book-focused email lists I subscribed to. It interested me as a history of the book and another in my category of “books about books”. It wasn’t quite what I expected. It turned out to be more a collection of essays than a coherent, sequential history of the book. In any case, I mostly liked it.

The essays cover such topics as Gutenberg and the beginning of books, books as Christmas gifts, book trafficking, book burning, censorship, and choose your own adventure books. None of these essays is very strong for me. They could be introductions to books that go deeper into such topics. Thus the book is sort of an incoherent primer on the history of books as objects rather than the actual contents of books.

That said, I enjoyed it for what it is. The author is British and the book was originally published in the UK, so that is the perspective for history and publishing. I am not all that familiar with the history of the British monarchy (nor am I particularly interested in it), so that complicated the context for me is some places. But as a quick read on different perspectives on the history of the codex, this might be an enjoyable intro.

My rating: 3/5

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