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The Book of Prefaces: A Short History of Literate Thought in Words by Great Writers of Four Nations from the 7th to the 20th Century
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The Book of Prefaces: A Short History of Literate Thought in Words by Great Writers of Four Nations from the 7th to the 20th Century

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4.15  ·  Rating details ·  86 ratings  ·  9 reviews
This book is a unique history of how literature spread and developed through three British nations and most North American states. This anthology gathers the work of great writers such as Geoffrey Chaucer, Lewis Carroll, John Milton, Edgar Allan Poe, and many more. The Book of Prefaces offers an unusual and unprecedented look at literature, a treat for any reader.
Paperback, 640 pages
Published January 7th 2003 by Bloomsbury USA (first published 1999)
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Warwick
A magnificent booklover's book which is a pleasure to browse and an education to peruse. Over more than six hundred pages, it gathers great prefaces from works of English literature from Cædmon to Wilfred Owen, alongside Gray's own commentary and frequent interjectory essays. The format accentuates Alasdair Gray's best qualities (idiosyncratic graphic art and page design; a swooping, dilettantish, defiantly marginal viewpoint) while limiting his less appealing ones (tub-thumping leftism, poorly- ...more
MJ Nicholls
Jul 24, 2012 marked it as sampled  ·  review of another edition
A Metapreface

This is a preface to my babble on The Book of Prefaces. Since I only read the preface to The Book of Prefaces and sampled the content, I invite you to only read this extremely short preface and skip the babble, as a metareactive gesture to this metaopening. Goodbye.

Aforemetaprefaced Babble

This book is, presumably, completely unknown to readers outside the UK, possibly even readers outside Scotland. Simply, The Book of Prefaces is a compilation of all the important prefaces (and if y
...more
Phil
May 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This has been the "bathroom book" since May - and for that it's highly suitable: erudite, thoughtful, and (most importantly) short sections.

I can't help thinking that had this been written in the 60s / 70s and wasn't quite so ... individual, it would have become a standard anthology textbook. Not only do we have a vast chronological compendium anthologising all the greatest writers in English, from Caedmon's anglo saxon loose paraphrasing of Genesis, through to the eulogy to a lost generation th
...more
Nick Craske
Jan 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A thing of beauty.
Brooke Salaz
Jul 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This was a wide-ranging, fabulous achievement. Gray’s work gave me a new appreciation of the evolution of the English language written word and the contributions made by a vast range of thinkers. His afterword expresses some dissatisfaction and refers to some of those he wishes had been included that weren’t. This is an encyclopedic effort that really brought home many of the individual contributions that all lovers of literature owe a tremendous debt to. The quirky personalities and diverse age ...more
Simon
Dec 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-to-re-read
This is a 'dipping' book... for me, at least. I have found it really interesting and beautifully presented. It gives you chance to sample all manner of books that you might not see otherwise.

I keep on coming back to this......
...more
Adam Stevenson
Mar 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is a beautifully designed book with a fascinating range of prefaces.

The glosses and analyses by the author strongly reveal his prejudices and are entertaining to read as well as providing a place to start your own thoughts on the piece, even if that place is one of disagreement.
Kenneth
Aug 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I'll never finish this book but then I don't think you're ever meant to. The idea behind this book is genius & Gray's notations and historical contextual notes make it doubly so. I will dip in and out of this book forever which I believe is exactly as was intended. ...more
Sandra
Jul 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Man, this is just super fucking great. Choice picks, great typesetting, Gray's commentary to each piece kind of put me in the historical k-hole. I especially enjoyed Johnson's introduction to his English Dictionary. ...more
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Alasdair James Gray was a Scottish writer and artist. His first novel, Lanark (1981), is seen as a landmark of Scottish fiction. He published novels, short stories, plays, poetry and translations, and wrote on politics and the history of English and Scots literature. His works of fiction combine realism, fantasy, and science fiction with the use of his own typography and illustrations, and won sev ...more

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