William Collins has pre-empted Aarathi Prasad’s book Silk, a history of “the natural world’s most extraordinary invention”.
Publishing director Arabella Pike bought UK and Commonwealth rights from Will Francis at Janklow & Nesbit. US rights were sold to Mauro DiPreta at William Morrow after a five-way auction. Silk: A History in Three Metamorphoses will be published in spring 2023.
The synopsis explains: “Ancient in origin, and global in spread, silk has been one of the most long-lived and luxurious examples of how we have appropriated technologies from the natural world to create highly imaginative solutions. For more than 4000 years, silk has provided clothing, and contributed to food, medicine and military technology. It has shaped the advancement of science. In this extraordinary book, Aarathi Prasad will weave together the biology of silk-producing animals and their metamorphoses, the cultural history of silk, and the material science of its future. This is an enriching history that spans continents and millennia, brought to life by Prasad’s own personal fascination.”
Prasad has worked in scientific research, policy and communications, and is currently a researcher at University College London Institute for Global Health, where her work focuses on the environmental impacts on the health of people in Kenya’s informal settlements. Her writing has appeared in the Guardian, Prospect, Wired, the Lancet, Vogue, Elle, the Telegraph, the New York Times and Scientific American. She has written two previous books, Like a Virgin (Oneworld) and In the Bonesetter’s Waiting Room (Wellcome Collection).
She said: “Largely missing in the many books about the Silk Road has been the commodity that travelled along it – silk itself, in all of its fascinating natural historical, cultural, medical and scientific incarnations. Here are untold stories of an ancient material whose strange history is matched only by its unexpected future. I’m incredibly happy to be working with Arabella and the team at William Collins on this.”
Pike added: “Aarathi’s brilliant book has already taught me so much. In the tradition of The Invention of Nature or Longitude, Silk combines gripping intellectual history and storytelling with the best science writing. I cannot wait to publish.”
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