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A stroll through 5,000 years of media history

A concise guide to the permanent exhibition of the German Museum of Books and Writing of the German National Library in Leipzig

Press release:  March 14, 2016

Wallstein has published its concise guide to the permanent exhibition of the German Museum of Books and Writing of the German National Library in Leipzig to coincide with the Leipzig Book Fair.

Entitled "Zeichen – Bücher – Netze: Von der Keilschrift zum Binärcode" (Signs – Books – Networks: From Cuneiform to Binary Code), the book of the Leipzig-based exhibition provides an overview of media history. The trenchant and richly illustrated guide highlights the milestones of media innovation: the invention of writing 5,000 years ago, letterpress printing with movable type in the 15th century, and digital networks.

The book whets the appetite for a visit to the exhibition and serves as a guide to the exhibition itself. It also functions as a primer, encouraging readers to reflect upon the history of media and their importance for the future of our society. Tally sticks, the deciphering of Egyptian hieroglyphics, tattoos, the letter writer, the rolling book barrel, the censor list of the Catholic Church, the transatlantic communications cable, the utopia of a universal language or a glimpse into the future of media: the concise guide and the exhibition in the airy latest annex building of the German National Library in Leipzig cover the entire period from early history to the present day. The German Book and Writing Museum has based the exhibition on its comprehensive collections devoted to writing, book and paper history which include more than a million objects.

The book accompanying the exhibition is designed to be aesthetically pleasing to informal "browsers" with an interest in history. It explains complex historical issues to school pupils by asking simple questions. It demonstrates to students the ongoing relevance of aspects of ancient media history and gives professionals an insight into one of the largest collections devoted to book and media history.

The guide provides an overview of an important chapter of human history. It also offers background information on the Leipzig exhibition and on the virtual exhibition of media history based on it (mediengeschichte.dnb.de).
Leipzig-based book designer Kristina Brusa is responsible for the appearance of the guide, which is published by Wallstein Verlag, Göttingen. Her clear, simple and distinctly coloured handwriting gives a structured framework to the texts and roughly 130 images of artefacts from five millennia of media history.

Zeichen – Bücher – Netze:
Von der Keilschrift zum Binärcode
Edited by Stephanie Jacobs, commissioned by the German National Library
148 pages., approx. 130 plates, soft cover with flaps
€ 9.90 (D); € 10.20 (A)
ISBN 978-3-8353-1824-3

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