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Distributed for Reaktion Books

A History of Reading

Tracing the complete story of reading from the age when symbol first became sign through to the electronic texts of the present day, Steven Roger Fischer’s fascinating A History of Reading offers a sweeping view across time and geography of our evolving relationship with text.

Turning to ancient forms of reading, Fischer takes us to Asia and the Americas and discusses the forms and developments of completely divergent writing systems and scripts. With the Middle Ages in Europe and the Middle East, innovative reinventions of reading emerged—silent and liturgical reading; the custom of lectors; a focus on reading in general education—whereupon printing transformed society’s entire attitude toward reading. Fischer charts the explosion of the book trade, its increased audience, and radically changed subject-matter in this era. He also describes the emergence of broadsheets, newspapers, and public readings and traces the effect of new font designs on general legibility, and much more.

Finally, Fischer assesses a future in which read communication will likely exceed oral communication through the use of the personal computer and the internet. Looking at "visual language" and modern theories of how reading is processed in the human brain, he asks how the New Reader can reshape reading’s fate—suggesting a radical new definition of what reading could be.

416 pages | 20 halftones | 5 x 7 3/4 | © 2019

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“Starting from the Bronze Age and ending with modern emails and a possible future of e-books, Fischer’s A History of Reading takes in a wonderful diversity of things.”


“It’s an exciting story, which the author tells clearly and chronologically.”

Daily Telegraph

“Of the three volumes in Fischer’s hugely ambitious and sedulously executed trilogy, the first two dealt with language and writing. This one, however, is the most suggestive and open, dedicated not only to the technicalities of his subject but to the everyday experience of communication. . . . Fischer lets his historical readers speak for themselves, ceaselessly seduced by textual magic.”


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