July 12, 2007

Semper ubi sub ubi

There has been a recent flurry of blog posts and news articles on the web repeating the suggestion made by Dr. Marco Mostert in a paper delivered at the Leeds conference that the recycling of linen underwear to make cheap rag paper spurred on literacy during the middle ages because it was possible to print cheap books. Bill Poser mentions the story over at Language Log, and Carl Pyrdum has a post over at Got Medieval which links to a number of iterations of the story and provides some interesting commentary. What strikes me as odd is that this isn’t a particularly new idea. I seem to recall James Burke mentioning the idea in one of his documentary series. I don’t recall whether or not he specifically links the idea with literacy, though I do believe that he suggests that the cheap paper produced from recycled underwear did lead to an information explosion. Curious that this idea should be getting so much attention now.

Posted by Mark at July 12, 2007 05:06 PM | TrackBack
Comments

My advisor’s been using the story for as long as I’ve known him. It’s a good and catchy one, especially in its slightly more complicated form:

Development of buttons to
tighter fitting clothing to
increasing underwear use etc.

Posted by: at July 13, 2007 05:57 AM

My advisor’s been using the story for as long as I’ve known him. It’s a good and catchy one, especially in its slightly more complicated form:

Development of buttons to
tighter fitting clothing to
increasing underwear use etc.

Posted by: S. Worthen at July 13, 2007 05:58 AM

Feh … I only just now realized that I stole your use of the old Latin “Semper ubi…” joke in my own post on the same subject. Since your post was first, I bow to your superior jok-o-city.

Posted by: Richard Scott Nokes at July 17, 2007 11:46 PM