On Pencils, Erasers, and Palimpsests

Kathleen Sheldon, September 2009

Editor's Note: Perspectives on History welcomes letters to the editor on issues discussed in its pages or which are relevant to the profession. Letters should ideally be brief and should be sent to Letters to the Editor (or mailed to Letters to the Editor, Perspectives on History, AHA, 400 A Street SE, Washington, DC 20003-3889) along with full contact information. Letters selected for publication may be edited for style, length, and content. Publication of letters does not signify endorsement by the AHA of the views expressed by the authors, who alone are responsible for ensuring accuracy of the letters' contents. Institutional affiliations are provided only for identification purposes.

To the Editor:

Regarding erasers and the history of objects (“Erasing History” by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich in the May 2009 Perspectives on History), I recommend engineer-historian Henry Petroski’s The Pencil: A History of Design and Circumstance (1989), which includes a few pages of information about pencil erasers. He has also written The Book on the Bookshelf (1999), which begins with scrolls, moves through medieval shelving systems, and includes an appendix that discusses various methods of categorizing your books on your bookshelves. It is an exemplary history of an object dear to the hearts of all historians.

—Kathleen Sheldon
UCLA Center for the Study of Women