A book is a set or
collection of written, printed, illustrated, or blank sheets, made of paper,
parchment, or other material, usually fastened together to hinge at one side. A
single sheet within a book is called a leaf, and each side of a sheet is called
a page. A book produced in electronic format is known as an e-book.
Book may also refer to a literary work, or a main division of such a work. In
library and information science, a book is called a monograph, to distinguish it
from serial periodicals such as magazines, journals or newspapers.
In novels, a book may be divided into several large sections, also called
books (Book 1, Book 2, etc).
A lover of books is usually referred to as a bibliophile, a bibliophilist, or
a philobiblist, or, more informally, a bookworm.
- 1 Ethymology
- 2 History
- 2.1 Antiquity
- 2.2 Middle
- 2.2.1 Manuscripts
- 2.2.2 Wood
- 2.2.3 Movable type and incunabula
- 2.3 Modern
- 3 Book
- 4 Sizes
- 5 Types of
- 6 Collections of books
- 7 Identification and classification
- 7.1 Classification systems
- 8 Transition to digital format
- 9 Paper
and conservation issues
- 10 See
- 11 Notes
- 12 External links
The word "book" comes from Old English "bōc" which comes from Germanic root
"*bōk-", cognate to beech.
Similarly, in Slavic languages (e.g. Russian and Bulgarian "буква"
(bukva)—"letter") is cognate to "beech". It is thus conjectured that the
earliest writings were carved on beech wood.
History of books
Sumerian language cuneiform script clay tablet, 2400–2200
When writing systems were invented in ancient civilizations, nearly
everything that could be written upon—stone, clay, tree bark, metal sheets—was
used for writing. Alphabetic writing emerged in Egypt around 1800 BC. At first
the words were not separated from each other (scripta continua) and
there was no punctuation. Texts were written from right to left, left to right,
and even so that alternate lines read in opposite directions. The technical term
for this type of writing is 'boustrophedon,' which means literally 'ox-turning'
for the way a farmer drives an ox to plough his fields.
Egyptian papyrus showing the god Osiris and the weighing of the
Papyrus, a thick paper-like material made by weaving the stems of the papyrus
plant, then pounding the woven sheet with a hammer-like tool, was used for
writing in Ancient Egypt, perhaps as early as the First Dynasty, although the
first evidence is from the account books of King Neferirkare Kakai of the Fifth
Dynasty (about 2400 BC). Papyrus sheets
were glued together to form a scroll. Tree bark such as lime (Latin liber, from there also library) and other materials were also used.
According to Herodotus (History 5:58), the Phoenicians brought writing and
papyrus to Greece around the tenth or ninth century BC. The Greek word for
papyrus as writing material (biblion) and book (biblos) come
from the Phoenician port town Byblos, through which papyrus was exported to
Greece. From Greeks we have also the
word tome (Greek: τόμος) which originally
meant a slice or piece and from there it became to denote "a roll of papyrus". Tomus was used by the Latins with exactly the same meaning as volumen (see also below the explanation by Isidore of Seville).
Whether made from papyrus, parchment, or paper in East Asia, scrolls were the
dominant form of book in the Hellenistic, Roman, Chinese and Hebrew cultures.
The more modern codex book format form took over the Roman world by late
antiquity, but the scroll format persisted much longer in Asia.
Woman holding a book (or wax tablets) in the form of the codex
. Wall painting from Pompeii
, before 79 AD.
Papyrus scrolls were still dominant in the first century AD, as witnessed by
the findings in Pompeii. The first written mention of the codex as a form of
book is from Martial, in his Apophoreta CLXXXIV at the end of the
century, where he praises its compactness. However the codex never gained much
popularity in the pagan Hellenistic world, and only within the Christian
community did it gain widespread use.
This change happened gradually during the third and fourth centuries, and the
reasons for adopting the codex form of the book are several: the format is more
economical, as both sides of the writing material can be used; and it is
portable, searchable, and easy to conceal. The Christian authors may also have
wanted to distinguish their writings from the pagan texts written on
Wax tablets were the normal writing material in schools, in accounting, and
for taking notes. They had the advantage of being reusable: the wax could be
melted, and reformed into a blank. The custom of binding several wax tablets
together (Roman pugillares) is a possible precursor for modern books
(i.e. codex).The etymology of the word
codex (block of wood) also suggests that it may have developed from wooden wax
In the 5th century, Isidore of Seville explained the relation between codex,
book and scroll in his Etymologiae (VI.13): "A codex is composed of many books;
a book is of one scroll. It is called codex by way of metaphor from the trunks
(codex) of trees or vines, as if it were a wooden stock, because it
contains in itself a multitude of books, as it were of branches."
Folio 14 recto of the 5th century Vergilius Romanus contains an
author portrait of Virgil. Note the bookcase (capsa
), reading stand and
the text written without word spacing in rustic capitals.
The fall of the Roman Empire in the fifth century A.D. saw the decline of the
culture of ancient Rome. Papyrus became difficult to obtain, due to lack of
contact with Egypt, and parchment, which had been used for centuries, began to
be the main writing material.
Monasteries carried on the Latin writing tradition in the Western Roman
Empire. Cassiodorus, in the monastery of Vivarium (established around 540),
stressed the importance of copying texts. St. Benedict of Nursia, in his Regula
Monachorum (completed around the middle of the 6th century) later also
promoted reading. The Rule of St.
Benedict (Ch. XLVIII), which set aside certain times for reading,
greatly influenced the monastic culture of the Middle Ages, and is one of the
reasons why the clergy were the predominant readers of books. The tradition and
style of the Roman Empire still dominated, but slowly the peculiar medieval book
Before the invention and adoption of the printing press, almost all books
were copied by hand, making books expensive and comparatively rare. Smaller
monasteries usually had only some dozen books, medium sized perhaps a couple
hundred. By the ninth century, larger collections held around 500 volumes; and
even at the end of the Middle Ages, the papal library in Avignon and Paris
library of Sorbonne held only around 2,000 volumes.
Burgundian scribe (portrait of Jean Miélot, from Miracles de
), 15th century. The depiction shows the room's furnishings, the
writer's materials, equipment, and activity.
The scriptorium of the monastery was usually located over the
chapter house. Artificial light was forbidden, for fear it may damage the
manuscripts. There were five types of scribes:
- Copyists, who dealt with basic production and correspondence
- Calligraphers, who dealt in fine book production
- Correctors, who collated and compared a finished book with the
manuscript from which it had been produced
- Rubricators, who painted in the red letters
- Illuminators, who painted illustrations
The bookmaking process was long and laborious. The parchment had to be
prepared, then the unbound pages were planned and ruled with a blunt tool or
lead, after which the text was written by the scribe, who usually left blank
areas for illustration and rubrication. Finally the book was bound by the
Desk with chained books in the Library of Cesena,
Different types of ink were known in antiquity, usually prepared from soot
and gum, and later also from gall nuts and iron vitriol. This gave writing the
typical brownish black color, but black or brown were not the only colours used.
There are texts written in red or even gold, and different colours were used for
illumination. Sometimes the whole parchment was coloured purple, and the text
was written on it with gold or silver (eg Codex Argenteus).
Irish monks introduced spacing between words in the seventh century. This
facilitated reading, as these monks tended to be less familiar with Latin.
However the use of spaces between words did not become commonplace before the
12th century. It has been argued, that
the use of spacing between words shows the transition from semi-vocalized
reading into silent reading.
The first books used parchment or vellum (calf skin) for the pages. The book
covers were made of wood and covered with leather. As dried parchment tends to
assume the form before processing, the books were fitted with clasps or straps.
During the later Middle Ages, when public libraries appeared, books were often
chained to a bookshelf or a desk to prevent theft. The so called libri
catenati were used up to 18th century.
At first books were copied mostly in monasteries, one at a time. With the
rise of universities in the 13th century, the Manuscript culture of the time
lead to an increase in the demand for books, and a new system for copying books
appeared. The books were divided into unbound leaves (pecia), which
were lent out to different copyists, so the speed of book production was
considerably increased. The system was maintained by stationers guilds, which
were secular, and produced both religious and non-religious material.
Wood block printing
A 15th century incunabulum. Notice the blind-tooled cover,
corner bosses and clasps for holding the book shut.
In woodblock printing, a relief image of an entire page was carved into
blocks of wood, inked, and used to print copies of that page. This method
originated in China, in the Han dynasty (before 220AD), as a method of printing
on textiles and later paper, and was widely used throughout East Asia. The
oldest dated book printed by this method is The Diamond Sutra (868
The method (called Woodcut when used in art) arrived in Europe in
the early 14th century. Books (known as block-books), as well as playing-cards
and religious pictures, began to be produced by this method. Creating an entire
book was a painstaking process, requiring a hand-carved block for each page; and
the wood blocks tended to crack, if stored for long.
Movable type and incunabula
The Chinese inventor Pi Sheng made movable type of earthenware circa 1045,
but there are no known surviving examples of his printing. Metal movable type
was invented in Korea during the Goryeo Dynasty (around 1230), but was not
widely used: one reason being the enormous Chinese character set. Around 1450,
in what is commonly regarded as an independent invention, Johannes Gutenberg
invented movable type in Europe, along with innovations in casting the type
based on a matrix and hand mould. This invention gradually made books less
expensive to produce, and more widely available.
Early printed books, single sheets and images which were created before the
year 1501 in Europe are known as incunabula. A man born in 1453, the year of
the fall of Constantinople, could look back from his fiftieth year on a lifetime
in which about eight million books had been printed, more perhaps than all the
scribes of Europe had produced since Constantine founded his city in A.D.
A Chinese bamboo book, in a collection at the University of
Steam-powered printing presses became popular in the early 1800s. These
machines could print 1,100 sheets per hour, but workers could only set 2,000
letters per hour.
Monotype and linotype presses were introduced in the late 19th century. They
could set more than 6,000 letters per hour and an entire line of type at
The centuries after the 15th century were thus spent on improving both the
printing press and the conditions for freedom of the press through the gradual
relaxation of restrictive censorship laws. See also intellectual property,
public domain, copyright. In mid-20th century, Europe book production had risen
to over 200,000 titles per year.
An uncut book; the pages must be separated before
The common structural parts of a book include:
- Front cover: hardbound or softcover (paperback); the spine is the binding
that joins the front and rear covers where the pages hinge
- Front endpaper
- Front matter
- Title page
- Copyright page: typically verso of title page: shows copyright owner/date,
credits, edition/printing, cataloging details
- Table of contents
- List of figures
- List of tables
- Body: the text or contents, the pages often collected or folded into
signatures; the pages are usually numbered sequentially, and often divided into
- Back matter
- Appendix (book design)|Appendix
- Rear endpaper
- Rear cover
The size of a modern book is based on the printing area of a common flatbed
press. The pages of type were arranged and clamped in a frame, so that when
printed on a sheet of paper the full size of the press, the pages would be right
side up and in order when the sheet was folded, and the folded edges
The most common book sizes are:
- Quarto (4to): the sheet of paper is folded twice, forming four leaves (eight
pages) approximately 11-13 inches (ca 30 cm) tall
- Octavo (8vo): the most common size for current hardcover books. The sheet is
folded three times into eight leaves (16 pages) up to 9 ¾" (ca 23 cm) tall.
- DuoDecimo (12mo): a size between 8vo and 16mo, up to 7 ¾" (ca 18 cm) tall
- Sextodecimo (16mo): the sheet is folded four times, forming sixteen leaves
(32 pages) up to 6 ¾" (ca 15 cm) tall
Sizes larger than quarto are:
- Folio: up to 15" (ca 38 cm) tall.
- Elephant Folio: up to 23" (ca 58 cm) tall.
- Atlas Folio: up to 25" (ca 63 cm) tall.
- Double Elephant Folio: up to 50" (ca 127 cm) tall.
Sizes smaller than 16mo are:
- 24mo: up to 5 ¾" (ca 13 cm) tall.
- 32mo: up to 5" (ca 12 cm) tall.
- 48mo: up to 4" (ca 10 cm) tall.
- 64mo: up to 3" (ca 8 cm) tall.
Types of books
Small books can be called booklets.
Notebooks are blank books to be written in by the user.
Students use them for taking notes. Scientists and other researchers use lab
notebooks to record their work. Many notebooks are simply bound by a spiral coil
at the edge so that pages can be easily torn out. Books to be partly filled in
by the user include a personal address book, phone book, or calendar book for
recording appointments, etc.
Albums are books for holding collections of memorabilia,
pictures or photographs. They are often made so that the pages are removable.
albums hold collections of stamps.
Books for recording periodic entries by the user, such as daily information
about a journey, are called logbooks or simply logs. A similar book for writing daily the owner's private
personal events and information is called a diary.
Businesses use accounting books such as journals and ledgers to record
financial data in a practice called bookkeeping.
Pre-printed school books for students to study are commonly called textbooks.
Elementary school pupils often use workbooks which are
published with spaces or blanks to be filled by them for study or homework.
A book with written prayers is called a prayerbook or missal. A book with a collection of hymns is called a hymnal.
In a library, a general type of non-fiction book which provides information
as opposed to telling a story, essay, commentary, or otherwise supporting a
point of view, is often referred to as a reference book. A very
general reference book, usually one-volume, with lists of data and information
on many topics is called an almanac. A more specific reference
book with tables or lists of data and information about a certain topic, often
intended for professional use, is often called a handbook.
Books with technical information on how to do something or how to use some
equipment are called manuals.
An encyclopedia is a book or set of books with articles on
many topics. A book listing words, their etymology, meanings, etc. is called a dictionary. A book which is a collection of maps is an atlas. Books which try to list references and abstracts in a
certain broad area may be called an index, such as Engineering Index, or abstracts such as Chemical
Abstracts, Biological Abstracts, etc.
Bookmarks were used throughout the medieval period, consisting usually of a small parchment strip
attached to the edge of folio (or a piece of cord attached to headband).
Bookmarks in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were narrow silk ribbons
bound into the book and become widespread in the 1850's. They were usually made
from silk, embroidered fabrics or leather. Not until the 1880's, did paper and
other materials become more common.
A book may be studied by students in the form of a book report. It may also
be covered by a professional writer as a book review to introduce a new book.
Some belong to a book club.
Books may also be categorized by their binding or cover. Hard
cover books have a stiff binding. Paperback books have
cheaper, flexible covers which tend to be less durable.
Publishing is a process for producing books, magazines, newspapers, etc.
pre-printed for the reader/user to buy, usually in large numbers by a publishing
company. Such books can be categorized as fiction (made-up stories) or
non-fiction (information written as true). A book-length fiction story is called
Publishers may produce low-cost, pre-publication copies known as galleys or
'bound proofs' for promotional purposes, such as generating reviews in advance
of publication. Galleys are usually made as cheaply as possible, since they are
not intended for sale.
Collections of books
Private or personal libraries made up of non-fiction and fiction books, (as
opposed to the state or institutional records kept in archives) first appeared
in classical Greece. In ancient world the maintaining of a library was usually
(but not exclusively) the privilege of a wealthy individual. These libraries
could have been either private or public, i.e. for individuals that were
interested in using them. The difference from a modern public library lies in
the fact that they were usually not funded from public sources. It is estimated
that in the city of Rome at the end of the third century there were around 30
public libraries, public libraries also existed in other cities of the ancient
Mediterranean region (e.g. Library of Alexandria). Later, in the Middle Ages, monasteries and
universities had also libraries that could be accessible to general public.
Typically not the whole collection was available to public, the books could not
be borrowed and often were chained to reading stands to prevent theft.
Celsus Library was built in 135 A.D. and could house around
The beginning of modern public library begins around 15th century when
individuals started to donate books to towns. The growth of a public library system in the United
States started in the late 19th century and was much helped by donations from
Andrew Carnegie. This reflected classes in a society: The poor or the middle
class had to access most books through a public library or by other means while
the rich could afford to have a private library built in their homes.
The advent of paperback books in the 20th century led to an explosion of
popular publishing. Paperback books made owning books affordable for many
people. Paperback books often included works from genres that had previously
been published mostly in pulp magazines. As a result of the low cost of such
books and the spread of bookstores filled with them (in addition to the creation
of a smaller market of extremely cheap used paperbacks) owning a private library
ceased to be a status symbol for the rich.
In library and booksellers' catalogues, it is common to include an
abbreviation such as "Crown 8vo" to indicate the paper size from which the book
When rows of books are lined on a bookshelf, bookends are sometimes needed to
keep them from slanting.
Identification and classification
ISBN number with barcode.
During the 20th century, librarians were concerned about keeping track of the
many books being added yearly to the Gutenberg Galaxy. Through a global society
called the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions
(IFLA), they devised a series of tools including the International Standard Book
Description or ISBD.
Each book is specified by an International Standard Book Number, or ISBN,
which is unique to every edition of every book produced by participating
publishers, world wide. It is managed by the ISBN Society. An ISBN has four
parts: the first part is the country code, the second the publisher code, and
the third the title code. The last part is a check digit, and can take values
from 0–9 and X (10). The EAN Barcodes numbers for books are derived from the
ISBN by prefixing 978, for Bookland, and calculating a new check digit.
Commercial publishers in industrialized countries generally assign ISBNs to
their books, so buyers may presume that the ISBN is part of a total
international system, with no exceptions. However many government publishers, in
industrial as well as developing countries, do not participate fully in the ISBN
system, and publish books which do not have ISBNs.
Books on library shelves with bookends, and call numbers visible
on the spines
A large or public collection requires a catalogue. Codes called "call
numbers" relate the books to the catalogue, and determine their locations on the
shelves. Call numbers are based on a Library classification system. The call
number is placed on the spine of the book, normally a short distance before the
bottom, and inside.
Institutional or national standards, such as ANSI/NISO Z39.41 - 1997,
establish the correct way to place information (such as the title, or the name
of the author) on book spines, and on "shelvable" book-like objects, such as
containers for DVDs, video tapes and software.
One of the earliest and most widely known systems of cataloguing books is the
Dewey Decimal System. This system has fallen out of use in some places, mainly
because of a Eurocentric bias and other difficulties applying the system to
modern libraries. However, it is still used by most public libraries in America.
The Library of Congress Classification system is more popular in university
- Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC)
- Library of Congress Classification (LCC)
- Chinese Library Classification (CLC)
- Universal Decimal Classification (UDC)
- Harvard-Yenching Classification
Transition to digital format
The term e-book (electronic book) in the broad sense is an amount of
information like a conventional book, but in digital form. It is made available
through internet, CD-ROM, etc. In the popular press the term e-Book sometimes
refers to a device such as the Sony Librie EBR-1000EP, which is meant to read
the digital form and present it in a human readable form.
Throughout the 20th century, libraries have faced an ever-increasing rate of
publishing, sometimes called an information explosion. The advent of electronic
publishing and the Internet means that much new information is not printed in
paper books, but is made available online through a digital library, on CD-ROM,
or in the form of e-books.
On the other hand, though books are nowadays produced using a digital version
of the content, for most books such a version is not available to the public
(i.e. neither in the library nor on the Internet), and there is no decline in
the rate of paper publishing. There is an effort, however, to convert books that
are in the public domain into a digital medium for unlimited redistribution and
infinite availability. The effort is spearheaded by Project Gutenberg combined
with Distributed Proofreaders.
There have also been new developments in the process of publishing books.
Technologies such as print on demand have made it easier for less known authors
to make their work available to a larger audience.
Paper and conservation issues
Halfbound book with leather and marbled paper.
Though papermaking in Europe had begun around the 11th century, up until the
beginning of 16th century vellum and paper were produced congruent to one
another, vellum being the more expensive and durable option. Printers or
publishers would often issue the same publication on both materials, to cater to
more than one market.
Paper was first made in China, as early as 200 B.C., and reached Europe
through Muslim territories. At first made of rags, the industrial revolution
changed paper-making practices, allowing for paper to be made out of wood
Paper made from wood pulp was introduced in the early-19th century, because
it was cheaper than linen or abaca cloth-based papers. Pulp-based paper made
books less expensive to the general public. This paved the way for huge leaps in
the rate of literacy in industrialised nations, and enabled the spread of
information during the Second Industrial Revolution.
However pulp paper contained acid, that eventually destroys the paper from
within. Earlier techniques for making paper used limestone rollers, which
neutralized the acid in the pulp. Books printed between 1850 and 1950 are at
risk; more recent books are often printed on acid-free or alkaline paper.
Libraries today have to consider mass deacidification of their older
The proper care of books takes into account the possibility of physical and
chemical damage to the cover and text. Books are best stored out of direct
sunlight, in reduced lighting, at cool temperatures, and at moderate humidity.
They need the support of surrounding volumes to maintain their shape, so it is
desirable to shelve them by size.
- Audio book
- Books published per country per year
- Independent bookstore
- List of books by title
- List of books by author
- List of books by genre or type
- List of books by award or notoriety
- List of books by year of publication
- List of banned books
- List of fictional books
- On-line book
- The Internet Book Database
Notes and references
- ^ Avrin, Leila (1991). Scribes, script, and books: the book arts
from antiquity to the Renaissance. Chicago; London: American Library
Association; The British Library, p. 83. ISBN 9780838905227.
- ^ Dard Hunter. Papermaking: History and
Technique of an Ancient Craft New ed. Dover Publications 1978, p. 12.
- ^ Leila Avrin. Scribes, Script and
Books, pp. 144–145.
- ^ The Cambridge History of Early Christian
Literature. Edd. Frances Young, Lewis Ayres, Andrew Louth. Cambridge University
Press 2004, pp. 8–9.
- ^ Leila Avrin. Scribes, Script and
Books, p. 173.
- ^ Bischoff, Bernhard (1990). Latin palaeography antiquity and the
Middle Ages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 11. ISBN
- ^ Leila Avrin. Scribes, Script and
Books, pp. 207–208.
- ^ Theodore Maynard. Saint Benedict and His
Monks. Staples Press Ltd 1956, pp. 70–71.
- ^ Martin D. Joachim. Historical Aspects of
Cataloging and Classification. Haworth Press 2003, p. 452.
- ^ Edith Diehl. Bookbinding: Its Background
and Technique. Dover Publications 1980, pp. 14–16.
- ^ Bernhard Bischoff. Latin
Palaeography, pp. 16–17.
- ^ Paul Saenger. Space Between Words: The
Origins of Silent Reading. Stanford University Press 1997.
- ^ Bernhard Bischoff. Latin
Palaeography, pp. 42–43.
- ^ Clapham, Michael, "Printing" in A History
of Technology, Vol 2. From the Renaissance to the Industrial
Revolution, edd. Charles Singer et al. (Oxford 1957), p. 377.
Cited from Elizabeth L. Eisenstein, The Printing Press as an Agent of
Change (Cambridge University, 1980).
- ^ For a 9th century Carolingian bookmark see: Szirmai, J. A. (1999). The
archaeology of medieval bookbinding. Aldershot: Ashgate, p. 123. ISBN
For a 15th century bookmark see Medeltidshandskrift 34, Lund University Library.
- ^ Miriam A. Drake, Encyclopedia of Library
and Information Science (Marcel Dekker, 2003), "Public Libraries, History".
- ^ Miriam A. Drake, Encyclopedia of
Library, "Public Libraries, History".