The Chinese invented it. The Americans turned it into the multi-billion pound business it is today.
Toilet paper – an essential part of everyday life yet barely thought about, and rarely spoken of. So, what is the origin of the loo roll? How did our ancestors cope without it? What can we learn from literature about the wiping habits of old? And, who the heck came up with the crazy idea of using a dog to promote a personal hygiene product? The answers to all these questions and much more can be found in Bum Fodder, Richard Smyth’s absorbing history of the humble toilet-roll.
From its origins in Medieval China to the invention of the hi-tech Washlet, a combined cleansing and drying system that removes the need for paper altogether, Smyth has delved deep into the annals of literature to chart humanity’s pursuit of gentleness for the behind. Bum Fodder follows its transition from craft material to luxury item as we swap dried corncobs and mussel-shells, communal sponge sticks and fig leaves, for the two, or even three-ply, soft paper rolls of today. Smyth discusses the role of the Groom of the Stool in Henry VIII’s reign, looks at the origins of the phrase ‘right to the bitter end’, and uncovers the part toilet paper played in British espionage during World War II. Does printer’s ink cause piles? What does a submarine crew do when it runs out of paper? Can you fold a sheet of toilet paper in half more than seven times? Is it better to wad, or to fold?
Richard Smyth’s Bum Fodder: An Absorbing History of Toilet Paper is the ultimate bathroom gift book, providing a fascinating history of a product that we all take for granted and can’t live without.
Richard Smyth is a writer and cartoonist, contributing regularly to many UK magazines, as well as writing novels and short stories. A finalist on BBC Mastermind, he lives in Saltaire, West Yorkshire.
“The history of toilet paper, it is the ultimate loo book.”
‘Robin Ince, ‘Loose Ends’ (Radio 4)’
“An, er, absorbing history of toilet paper.”
“The ultimate accessory for the loo: Richard Smyth’s fascinating tome about toilet paper that flushes out reams of intriguing facts.”
“Brimming with barmy bum fodder facts, this quirky book is bound to entertain readers infinitely.”
“It took a while, but toilet paper eventually got on a roll.”
‘Wales on Sunday’
“Not only is he able to trace the history of the paper, which like most things was invented in China many centuries ago, but there seem to be plenty of anecdotes through literature relating to its use.”
‘Best of British’
“A great little book and ideal for reading on the … yep”
‘The Inky Fool’
“At times alarmingly informative and comprehensive.”
‘Jonathan Pinnock blog’
“This is a book to delight anyone with a sense of humour, an inquiring mind and a reasonably strong stomach.”
‘The Garden Window’