Books come in all shapes, sizes, and formats. They are seen
and used almost everywhere. The history of books can be
traced back to China and Japan about 1,000 years ago. The
first printed books in Europe appeared about 500 years ago.
The oldest known books were baked clay tablets which were
used about 55 hundred years ago in Babylon and Nineveh in
Mesopotamia. These tablets used symbols that represent the
language of the country wherein they were made. The symbols
were pressed into the surface of wet clay. When the tablets
were baked, the clay became hard and the imprint was
The Egyptians, used a reedlike plant, called papyrus, for
books instead of clay tablets. They stripped off the inner
bark and pasted layers of it together making a sort of
paper sheet. Several of these sheets were pasted into a
long strip. Wooden rollers were then attached to the strip
at each end, making a papyrus roll. The writing on it was
done in narrow columns with a reed pen. The letters were
signs called hieroglyphics.
The Romans used the same concept as the Egyptians, however,
they used the treated skin of lambs, calves, or kids as
paper. This skin is a fine grade of parchment called
vellum. Around 300 A. D., the roll book was replaced by a
new form of book, the codex. It consisted of three or four
sheets of vellum folded into a section called a gathering.
The gatherings could then be sewed together into a book.
The early books were written by hand with a brush, a reed,
or a quill. It took many weeks and even months to write a
long book. Each book had its own individuality and no two
books ever looked exactly alike.
The first printed book was made in China over one thousand
years ago. It was printed from type made of baked clay.
These Chinese books were printed on paper which the Chinese
had invented. The first moveable type was used in Europe
and it is believed that Johannes Gutenberg was responsible
The art of printing spread throughout Europe. The most
popular book was the Bible. More than thirty thousand
different books were printed in the first fifty years of
Many changes have occurred in books and bookmaking. The
prominent characteristic of book publishing in the United
States is mass production. A publisher may sell hundreds of
thousands of copies of a single popular books, called a
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