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TITLE: The Pharaoh's Treasure: The Origin of Paper and the Rise of Western Civilization
AUTHOR: John Gaudet
DATE PUBLISHED: October 2018
"For our entire history, humans have always searched for new ways to share information. This innate compulsion led to the origin of writing on the rock walls of caves and coffin lids or carving on tablets. But it was with the advent of papyrus paper when the ability to record and transmit information exploded, allowing for an exchanging of ideas from the banks of the Nile throughout the Mediterranean—and the civilized world—for the first time in human history.
In The Pharaoh’s Treasure, John Gaudet looks at this pivotal transition to papyrus paper, which would become the most commonly used information medium in the world for more than 4,000 years. Far from fragile, papyrus paper is an especially durable writing surface; papyrus books and documents in ancient and medieval times had a usable life of hundreds of years, and this durability has allowed items like the famous Nag Hammadi codices from the third and fourth century to survive.
The story of this material that was prized by both scholars and kings reveals how papyrus paper is more than a relic of our ancient past, but a key to understanding how ideas and information shaped humanity in the ancient and early modern world."
Gaudet has written a delightfully interesting and informative book that covers everything papyrus in terms of paper. He covers topics such as the ancient locations of papyrus; it's various uses; the invention and evolution of papyrus paper; the business of manufacture and distribution of papyrus sheets from Egypt, across the Mediterranean region and beyond; and it's eventual eclipse by rag paper. The numerous historical stories about archaeological discoveries, daring "rescue" attempts and some horror stories are well told and make this book something other than a dry rendition of the evolution of the papyrus scroll. Of course, you can't have a book about papyrus paper and not mention the numerous ancient (and not so ancient) libraries that stored them. This book compliments the author's previous book [Papyrus: The Plant that Changed the World: From Ancient Egypt to Today's Water Wars] which deals more specifically with the papyrus plant; as well as Keith Houston's book [The Book: A Cover-to-Cover Exploration of the Most Powerful Object of Our Time] which deals with paper and the evolution of the book, but doesn't not spend too much time on papyrus paper specifically.
I'm pretty sure I wasn't supposed to find this as amusing as I did, but I'm several decades past its target demographic. I'd never read a Three Investigators book before and know a few people with fond memories of them, so I wanted to give one a try.
I'm not going to touch on the sheer fantasy of what is the foundational premise of the books; they were written to be adventures and mysteries for kids (I use 'kids' as a broad spectrum noun here) and why not make these kids important? Why not give them more parental freedom and the only junk yard in the world that would be fun and safe to play in.
But it was still hilarious. The gnomes, which are probably not PC by today's standards. The Japanese representation, which is definitely not, yet feels innocently done here - yes, the authors' should have been more sensitive, but the kids reading it at the time would likely have read it in total naiveté. I didn't find the Japanese speaking stereotypically funny at all, but I did have a good head shake over it.
Mostly what I found funny were the three boys, and that's just because despite my best efforts, I grew up and can't avoid seeing the playacting taking place. Still, their hideout sounds cool as hell and I loved the Alfred Hitchcock appearances. That man just couldn't stay on the sidelines of anything, could he?
I read this for the Baker Street Irregulars Square in Halloween Bingo.
I meet a couple of friends once a week for coffee/chai/chocolate and today one of them said "want to go to the bookstore afterwards?"
I assumed it was a rhetorical question. Anyway, this friend has 2 small kids so we of course gravitated to the kids section, where she bought nothing, and I bought this book.
It has flaps.
It has clues.
It has riddles.
Did I mention it had flaps? Flaps are almost as good as pop-ups!
The book is beautiful, with a gorgeous spread and multiple flaps for each room of a house owned by an obviously very wealthy Great Aunt Martha. Behind each flap is a little fact about the object on the flap and they cover a multitude of subjects: art, music, inventions, history, and fashion.
Each spread also contains a clue to one of the flaps - this was, unfortunately, the most disappointing aspect of the book as the clues seemed easy to the point of insulting. Yes, yes, this is supposed to be a kids book, so the clues reflect that, I know. But the clues' simplicity seem disproportionate to the relative maturity of the facts the other flaps contain. There are a few concepts (like BC and AD, or royal executions as examples) that imply a higher level of education than clues that consist of "Stop Press! Read all about it! The answer is here in black and white!", which is easy enough that I don't even have to tell you the answer. Although perhaps in this digital age I'm giving kids too much credit.
Regardless, the facts were great but the clues too easy. But the book is lovely and I can't wait to show it to my nieces.
Almost a year to the day I read the 1959 'The Tower Treasure' I came across this facsimile edition of the original 1927 novel. What makes the difference? In a word:
Bowdlerize: To remove material that is considered improper or offensive from (a text or account), especially with the result that the text becomes weaker or less effective. - Oxford Living Dictionary
The Strathmeyer Syndicate under Harriet Strathmeyer Adams revised the Hardy Boys and the Nancy Drew series in the late 1950s. This was intended to update language and address some legitimate complaints about racist characterizations and, less legitimate, behavioral issues with the young detectives. The Hardy Boys, all-American and daring, became toadies to American institutions and any youthful impertinence of theirs towards authority and each other was scrubbed away. Nancy Drew fared worse, her yachtish, upper crust background was toned down, but so was much of her independent spirit.
'The Tower Treasure' as it appeared in 1927 is a very different novel. There was a loss of some 40-odd pages and many aspects of the plot were completely rewritten. The Hardy Boys are still the two sons of famed detective Fenton Hardy and on an errand for him, they witness a reckless driver who turns out to have stolen a car from their friend Chet. Later, a robbery is reported at the Tower Mansion and a friend's father is implicated. They get involved in the case, track down the thief and discover where the treasure is hidden. The 1959 version shortens the direct involvement of the boys in some more dangerous elements of the case and demonstrates almost a mania for wigs. Wigs are important to the case, but the 1927 version understandably doesn't have the boys going immediately to one of Bayport's three male wig shops. That's a leap that should occur later in a case.
Along with plot elements being condensed, descriptive language was cut. The 1959 story begins with the boys being chased down on their motorcycles by a speeding car. The original takes some time to introduce the boys and their hometown. Mealtimes are important, and 'Redwall'-worthy descriptions of tables groaning with food. Characterization was different, too. The wealthy Adelia Applegate is played for laughs because of her eccentric fashion, but it seems kinder in 1927, even if she is more sympathetic, providing an 'honorable alibi', in the revised version. Women don't play a significant role at all in either of them, mostly being providers of food.
There was one objectionable piece in the original book. This was, at the suggestion of their friend Tony Prito, to use the fears of an Italian immigrant to provide cover for a distraction to keep the Chief of Police out of the case. Threatened by 'the Black Hand', Rocco is too-ready to believe a ticking box on his farm stand is a bomb. The revised version has the boys kindly offer to watch a grocer's store and pretended a fire in the backyard incinerator was out of control and thus kept a buffoon private eye (can't have the police look ridiculous) away from the case.
I have no argument for the value of that particular scene, but the overall effect of the change to the books was a reduction of quality. There is no rich language left in the Hardy Boys series after the changes were made, and Frank and Joe themselves became indistinguishable from each other apart from their hair and ages. This was such a revelation that I've begun actively collecting the early books with their original text.
Next: 'The House on the Cliff'