Before we were all addicted to telly and the internet and e-readers and podcasts, there was but one medium for sharing information en masse: the printed word. Sure, oral storytelling lasted for several millennia and gave us the classics we know and love (or were forced to read in school), but the spread of these stories around the world is thanks to one not-so-little thing that most of us use every day and take for granted completely: Ink.
You hardly think about it, do you? Unless your biro has dried out or your fountain pen has exploded in your handbag, destroying everything, ink is something we hardly see at all. But if you stop to consider it for a moment, you’ll realise that ink has in fact played a huge role in your daily life. You used it to write that note you passed in class that the teacher apprehended and read aloud to the class, haunting your anxiety dreams forever. It has allowed you to read every book, magazine and newspaper you’ve ever held, some of which have changed your life.
After I first heard about Ted Bishop’s book, Ink: Culture, Wonder, and Our Relationship with the Written Word, I was fascinated by the notion that I use this essential item every day but have never bothered to consider its history and importance. I couldn’t help but take more notice of the role ink plays in my life – primarily through the books I read (ALWAYS the real, printed thing!) and the colourful bullet journal I keep (oh, and the masses of printer toner I go through when compiling Turnaround’s sales kits and catalogues).
I want to better understand the history of ink, and so I’m thrilled the book has finally arrived on our shelves!
More about the book:
A rich and imaginative discovery of how ink has shaped culture
and why it is here to stay.
Ink won the Alberta Writers’ Guild Wilfred Eggleston Award for Non-Fiction,
and was a finalist for the 2015 Governor General’s Award for Non-Fiction.
Ink is so much a part of daily life that we take it for granted, yet its invention was as significant as the wheel. Ink not only recorded culture, it bought political power, divided peoples, and led to murderous rivalries. Ancient letters on a page were revered as divine light, and precious ink recipes were held secret for centuries. And, when it first hit markets not so long ago, the excitement over the disposable ballpoint pen equalled that for a new smartphone – with similar complaints to the manufacturers.
Curious about its impact on culture, literature, and the course of history, Ted Bishop sets out to explore the story of ink. From Budapest to Buenos Aires, he traces the lives of the innovators who created the ballpoint pen – revolutionary technology that still requires exact engineering today. Bishop visits a ranch in Utah to meet a master ink-maker who relishes igniting linseed oil to make traditional printers’ ink. In China, he learns that ink can be an exquisite object, the subject of poetry, and a means of strengthening (or straining) family bonds. And in the Middle East, he sees the world’s oldest Qur’an, stained with the blood of the caliph who was assassinated while reading it.
An inquisitive and personal tour around the world, Ink asks us to look more closely at something we see so often that we don’t see it at all.
“Part travel narrative, part hidden history, part cultural exploration, Ink is a fascinating book, with writing as tactile and fluid as ink rolling across rice paper.”
– Will Ferguson, Scotiabank Giller Prize-winning author of 419
“The history of ink and pens and the entire culture of writing by hand is a fantastic and (you knew this was coming) indelible subject for a book. But in the hands of Ted Bishop, one of Canada’s best and most entertaining writers, the subject becomes a thing of rare beauty—and, best of all, a story you won’t be able to put down. A brilliant accomplishment.”
– Ian Brown, Charles Taylor Prize-winning author of The Boy in the Moon
Ink is available now from Turnaround
9780143169574 £13.99 p/b
Published 18 May 2017 by Penguin Canada