Book historians have long insisted that silent reading was a rare or nonexistent practice in classical antiquity. This belief runs counter to much research in the field of Classics. In this paper, I offer a critical review of the evidence and the scholarship concerning reading in antiquity before offering an explanation for these conflicting views on the subject. I argue that this debate reveals much about the epistemology of book history as a discipline; in addition, I demonstrate how a more nuanced understanding of ancient reading culture can have surprising implications for the future of the book.


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