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 The role of papyrus in the development of books is explored in a work that has been shortlisted for the prestigious British Academy Book Prize for Global Understanding. 

Papyrus: The Invention of Books in the Ancient World is by the classicist scholar and writer Irene Vallejo, who is a regular columnist for El País and Heraldo de Aragón in Spain.  Originally published in Spain and published in the UK by Hodder, the book chronicles literary culture in the ancient world and the role played by papyrus in its survival over thousands of years.

The book has sold in 30 languages worldwide including Lebanon’s Dar El Arab in Arabic.  The Arabic publication date has yet to be confirmed.

The British Academy Book Prize is worth £25,000 and rewards and celebrates ‘ground-breaking research-based works of non-fiction that have made an outstanding contribution to the public understanding of world cultures and the ways in which they interconnect’.

Joining Vallejo’s book are Red Memory: Living, Remembering and Forgetting China’s Cultural Revolution by Tania Branigan (Faber & Faber); Courting India: England, Mughal India and the Origins of Empire by Nandini Das (Bloomsbury Publishing); The Violence of Colonial Photography by Daniel Foliard (Manchester University Press); Black Ghost of Empire: The Long Death of Slavery and the Failure of Emancipation by Kris Manjapra (Allen Lane / Penguin Books); and Ritual: How Seemingly Senseless Acts Make Life Worth Living by Dimitris Xygalatas (Profile Books).

Chair of this year’s jury Professor Charles Tripp, Fellow of the British Academy said: “This eleventh year of the British Academy Book Prize has attracted record numbers of entries from across the humanities and social sciences. We were greatly impressed by the exceptional quality of writing in this year’s shortlist and the ability of the authors to unearth extraordinary new discoveries and to find new perspectives on old perceptions. With my fellow jury members, we hope that readers will be inspired to explore the shortlist and thereby to discover something new about the world.”

The winner of the £25,000 prize will be announced at an award ceremony in London on Tuesday 31 October. Each of the shortlisted writers will receive £1,000.