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Lindsay's Review

Papyrus is one of those rare historical books that not only explores a theme in depth, but is also a literary joy to read. Irene Vallejo has been translated from Spanish and the rhythms of that language have been maintained. In Papyrus she writes not only about the history of the invention of books as objects, but explores in detail the role of literature in general, making a social-political reading of ancient to modern history through the lens of the written word.

Using the ancient Library of Alexandria as a central theme, and its ideal of the collection of all books written in the ancient world as a central focus, she explores in detail the creation of the written word and the forms in which the words were stored through time. Vallejo takes a non-linear waltz through history, but as she jumps from epoch forwards and backwards, she follows a trail that leads the reader to an eventual over arching view of books and literature throughout history, and to the present day. It is a very feminine journey through time and literature, as she weaves her own love of books into the narrative, yet does not shy to raise feminist critique in the expected and appropriate points in time, and in the development of the Western canons of literature. A thoroughly enjoyable read, and beautifully researched and penned historical narrative that, really, encompasses everything since the clay tablets of Sumeria. 

Publisher Reviews


 An outstanding, universal and unique book. - The New York Times

One can be a masterful philologist and at the same time write like the angels... a true literary feast. - ABC

An incredible, universal, and unique book which will no doubt become a classic. - El Periodico de Aragon

It's a joy to read Irene Vallejo's prose, she is such a brilliant creator and full of sensitivity. '[A] masterpiece . . . I am absolutely sure that it will continue to be read when its readers today are already in the afterlife.' A fascinating and profound, yet delightfully personal take on books in the ancient world, with many illuminating insights into more modern literature and life. - Paul Strathern, author of Ten Cities that Led the World

'In this fabulous, anecdote-filled history, award-winning Spanish writer Vallejo charts the fates and fortunes of books and libraries in the ancient world, from the battlefields of Alexander the Great and the eruptions of Mount Vesuvius to Cleopatra's palaces and the scenes of Hypatia's murder. As well as chronicling the thrills and spills of literary culture, she celebrates those whose heroic efforts ensured the continuity of the written word. A long-time Spanish bestseller, Papyrus has won numerous prizes and is set to be published around the world.' - The Bookseller, November Non-Fiction Editor s Choice

'A literary phenomenon . . . didactic and daring . . . elegant and richly digressive.' - Times Literary Supplement