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Distributed for Reaktion Books


From Antiquity to Eternity

Distributed for Reaktion Books


From Antiquity to Eternity

Spanning centuries and continents, a beautifully illustrated history of humanity’s enduring enthrallment with a seemingly banal substance: petrified tree sap, or amber.
Amber: From Antiquity to Eternity is a history of human engagement with amber across three millennia. The book vividly describes our conceptions, stories, and political and scholarly disputes about amber, as well as issues of national and personal identity, religion, art, literature, music, and science. Rachel King rewrites amber’s history for the twenty-first century, tackling thorny ethical and moral questions regarding humanity’s relationship with amber in the past, as well our connection with it today. With the Earth facing unprecedented challenges, amber—the natural time capsule, and preserver of key information about the planet’s evolutional history—promises to offer invaluable insights into what comes next.

272 pages | 89 color plates, 16 halftones | 6 1/2 x 9 1/4 | © 2022

Earth Sciences: General Earth Sciences

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"This generously illustrated volume charts amber's enduring sensory appeal and its profound influence on mythology, religion, politics, science, and the arts. Scientific and technological background provide essential context. King organizes her research in 'interweaving' chapters '[tracing] elaborate ideas' that synthesize an impressive range of historical and modern sources, primarily European, but encompassing Asia, Africa, and the Americas. . . . [King] displays a particular knack for sharing memorable stories."


"This is a must-have book, fascinating and readable from the first page. In this beautifully illustrated volume, the reader is spirited from amber’s origins as a primordial tree resin and its deep-time geological sources to the remarkable history of its use by humans from the Paleolithic era to the present. Amber’s sunlight-like qualities, its remarkable inclusions of flora and fauna, natural magnetic properties, scent and beauty have made it a magical and much sought-after substance for ornament, magic, and medicine around the globe. From ancient literary sources to contemporary photography, this book’s references and images document amber’s attraction and popularity."

Faya Causey, author of "Amber and the Ancient World"

“King unravels the different histories of amber with consummate ease, engaging the reader throughout with her lucid and accessible style. Wonderfully erudite in her approach, she harvests obscure snippets of information gleaned from otherwise little-consulted archival sources, historical texts, and scientific treatises to weave a thoroughly compulsive narrative. The result is a stimulating, beautifully illustrated, and authoritative biography of a much-loved gemstone.”

Chris Duffin, scientific associate at the Natural History Museum, London, editor of "Amber in the History of Medicine"

"Amber has fascinated people for millennia. This book by King is an in-depth investigation into amber’s origins and history, exploring its myths and uses both in the past and today. Amber is lavishly illustrated with stunning objects and is a must for anyone interested in this amazing substance."

Andrew Ross, principal curator of palaeobiology, National Museums Scotland

"Amber: From Antiquity to Eternity is an excellent publication, proving a comprehensive view of amber, the oldest decorative ‘stone’ used by man. By far the best contemporary book on the history of this magical gem, Amber’s interesting information and accessible language make it difficult to stop reading. Highly recommended."

Michal Kosior, founder of Amber Experts

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