Thursday, May 6, 2010

Carriers of Civilization

Tonight I attended the 40th Anniversary celebration of David Godine Publishing, and David read a quote from historian Barbara Tuchman I really liked:

"Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill."

I have always been a big fan of Barbara Tuchman, who like me, majored in History and Literature at Radcliffe. Now I see she may have cribbed this quote from Henry David Thoreau, which is not proper historian behavior (although it is not unknown historian behavior)! Perhaps the quote was simply wrongly attributed to her.

"Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill. I think that there is nothing, not even crime, more opposed to poetry, to philosophy, ay, to life itself than this incessant business." Thoreau
(1817 - 1862)

Seriously, is anyone going to say her Kindle is a carrier of civilization?

1 comment:

Andy John said...

Are we certain that Thoreau did say this? Perhaps Barbara had good taste and may have left attribution originally, or footnoted...