First it was guns, germs and steel, then it was salt—now, it’s the invention of stairs that changed the history of mankind. In a new book, Staircases (published by Vendome Press this month), co-authors Oscar Tusquets Blanca, Martine Diot, Adelaïde de Savray, Jérôme Cognard, and Jean Dethier present a sweeping history of the innovation that allowed man to get off the flat ground and start walking through space. Using examples from the past 900 years, they explain the important position steps have held in our history; going well beyond just a functional—and often decorative—place in the home, staircases have also been imbued with meaning, particularly as a sign of social status (the primary, ceremonial set in the front of the house versus the servants’ stairs hidden in the back). With beautiful images of a range of stairways—from the steps of a Mayan pyramid to those of Versailles, from palaces to private homes, from the grand stairway at the Paris Opéra to those on the roof of Gaudí’s Casa Milà, from the round ramp at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City to I.M. Pei’s innovative design at the Museum of Islamic Art in Qatar—see a history of the trends, innovations, and modernizations of the seemingly simple invention that helps us get from one floor to the next.