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There's more than one way to make a bed, and humans throughout history have devised every sort they could imagine. From a simple blanket laid on the ground to elaborately carved four-posters hung with sumptuous draperies, from a hammock swinging under the stars to a stifling cupboard bed built into a wall, the ways in which humans have gone about trying to get a good night's sleep are myriad. This book, illustrated with some 140 images, takes readers on a lively tour of beds and sleeping customs over time and around the world.
Beginning with "sleeping low," Carlano and Sumberg show that, whereas in Europe and North America sleeping on bedding on the floor was the lot of the poor, in many other parts of the world it has long been a cultural and aesthetic choice. Beautiful tatami-futon ensembles in Japan, intricately patterned rattan mats in Borneo, and cozy textile pads, pillows, and quilts in Turkey have kept people warm and comfortable for centuries.
Yet "sleeping high," on raised platform beds, started early, too: such beds are known from archaeological finds and tomb paintings dating to the fourth century BCE in Egypt. From ancient Greece and Rome, the narrow, rectangular bed spread into Europe and then to North America, seeing innumerable elaborations along the way -- not only in the designs of the bedsteads themselves but also in the styles of bedding that became integral parts of the sleeping arrangement. In the modern West, people stowed away Murphy beds in the early 1900s, romped on waterbeds in the 1970s, and now can buy futuristic beds designed by furniture artists.
Rounding out the tour, Carlano and Sumberg describe the ways people have found to sleep safely and comfortably while on the move -- whether the travelers are full-time nomads sleeping in tents or twentieth-century tourists in Pullman cars. They devote a chapter to the special beds, cradles, and cribs designed for infants and young children, and an appropriately final chapter to the abundance of sleep imagery associated with death. In short, Sleeping Around offers an informative and entertaining look at the history of beds and -- under the impetus of both functional needs and aesthetic tastes -- their ever-changing designs.
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