“What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic. This room [in the New York Public Library] is full of magic… More recently, books, especially paperbacks, have been printed in massive and inexpensive editions. For the price of a modest meal you can ponder the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, the origin of species, the interpretation of dreams, the nature of things. Books are like seeds. They can lie dormant for centuries and then flower in the most unpromising soil.”
Excerpt from American astronomer and cosmologist Carl Sagan’s thirteen-part television series, Cosmos: A Personal Journey, Episode 11 entitled “The Persistence of Memory.” The science-themed documentary, featuring music by Greek composer Vangelis, was broadcast on PBS in 1980. The mini-series, which won a Peabody Award and two Emmies, was watched by more than 500 million people in over 60 countries.
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