book. The word book has come to have many meanings, e.g., any collection of sheets of paper, wood, or other material sewn or bound together; a division of a written work (books of the Bible, books of Caesar's Gallic War); and statements of financial accounting (bookkeeping). The primary meaning today is, however, a written work either in manuscript or in printed form that is of substantial length.

Early Books

Early in the history of bookmaking the printed book was distinguished in size by the number of times the original large sheet of paper on which the type was printed had been folded, i.e., folio, quarto, octavo, and duodecimo. With the advent of machine-made paper, these sizes were standardized. The standard octavo, according to the American Library Association, is between 20 cm and 25 cm in height.

Books apparently did not come into existence until long after writing, e.g., inscription, was widespread. Fragmentary early papyri represent literature in ancient Egypt and may possibly be considered as books, although it is customary to speak of the Book of the Dead as the first of the Egyptian papyrus books. The cuneiform tablets gathered into the great Assyrian library of Assurbanipal represented an enormous collection of works, but the book as we know it may be said to be derived from the Egyptian writings on papyrus.

The vast literature of the Greeks, collected in the greatest library of the ancient world, in Alexandria, was generally written on large sheets of papyrus, which were glued together and rolled up. The rolls varied greatly in size; many were about 1 ft (30 cm) wide and about 30 ft (9 m) long when unrolled. In the Hellenistic era large works were divided into tomes [Gr.,=cutting] that were stored together in cylinders and labeled.

The method of having the leaves held together in quires (24 or 25 sheets) in the fashion of the modern book seems not to have originated until about the 2d cent. A.D. From at least the early part of the 2d cent. B.C. the more permanent vellum (a type of fine parchment first used in the Middle East) was also used for writing books, and this grew to be very popular in the Middle Ages when books were copied by monks in the scriptoria of monasteries. In the scriptoria the art of illumination flourished, making artistic masterpieces of many medieval liturgical volumes.

Book Printing

The production of books in great quantity had to await the mechanical processes of printing from movable type. Printing was invented in China, where the first book printed by means of woodblocks is thought to date from the 9th cent. Korea developed movable metal type during the 13th cent. In the West movable metal type was developed by Johann Gutenberg of Mainz, and to a very large extent the history of the book is henceforth the history of printing.

Book production developed very rapidly, the craft becoming enormously sophisticated by the 16th cent. Italian printers set the standards of format and quality retained in Europe until the 19th cent. Great printing houses also arose in France and the Netherlands and, after a general decline in the 17th cent., in England and the United States. The 19th cent. witnessed machine replacement of all the old manual processes. By the end of the century printing quality had been so debased that a revolution, led by William Morris during the arts and crafts movement in England, was necessary to restore the concept of beauty to bookmaking.

Modern Book Production

In recent years computer technology has revolutionized book production and the printing and distribution of comparatively inexpensive softcover books, or paperbacks, has expanded. During the latter part of the 20th cent. the standing of the book as an information source was challenged by other media including television, computers, and on-line databases. In addition, the very definition of a book as a collection of printed sheets of paper has also been challenged, as books recorded on audio tape and CD-ROM have become increasingly common and electronic book readers (small computers designed to display pages of books on their screens) have been introduced that can store hundreds of books in digital form.

Related Entries

See also book clubs; book collecting; book publishing; incunabula; library; manuscript; type; typography; writing.


For a brief and excellent bibliography, see H. Lehmann-Haupt, One Hundred Books about Bookmaking (1949). See also F. G. Kenyon, Books and Readers in Ancient Greece and Rome (2d ed. 1951); E. Chiera, They Wrote on Clay (1958); F. L. Schick, The Paperbound Book in America (1959); H. D. Vervliet, ed., The Book through Five Thousand Years (1972); W. Morris, The Ideal Book (reprints of essays and lectures on the book arts, ed. by W. S. Petersen, 1982); N. Howard, The Book: The Life Story of a Technology (2005).

Body of written works produced to entertain or instruct young people. The genre encompasses a wide range of works, including acknowledged classics of world literature, picture books and easy-to-read stories, and fairy tales, lullabies, fables, folk songs, and other, primarily orally transmitted, materials. It emerged as a distinct and independent form only in the second half of the 18th century and blossomed in the 19th century. In the 20th century, with the attainment of near-universal literacy in most developed nations, the diversity in children's books came almost to rival that of adult popular literature.

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Piece of furniture fitted with shelves, formerly often enclosed by doors. In early times the ambry, or wall cupboard, was used to hold books. Bookcases were included in the medieval fittings of college libraries in Britain. The earliest dated domestic examples were made of oak in 1666 for the diarist Samuel Pepys.

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Marketing service that offers books to subscribers through the mail, often at reduced prices. The first U.S. book club, the Book-of-the-Month Club, was founded in 1926; the rival Literary Guild appeared a year later. By the 1980s nearly 100 book clubs existed in the U.S., most of them specialized (e.g., for history books, mysteries, etc.). A common incentive for attracting new members is the offer of several free or heavily discounted books; long-standing members often receive bonuses.

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Written (or printed) message of considerable length, meant for circulation and recorded on any of various materials that are durable and light enough to be easily portable. The papyrus roll of ancient Egypt is more nearly the direct ancestor of the modern book than is the clay tablet; examples of both date to circa 3000 BC. Somewhat later, the Chinese independently created an extensive scholarship based on books, many made of wood or bamboo strips bound with cords. Lampblack ink was introduced in China circa AD 400 and printing from wooden blocks in the 6th century. The Greeks adopted the papyrus roll and passed it on to the Romans. The parchment or vellum codex superseded the papyrus roll by AD 400. Medieval parchment or vellum leaves were prepared from the skins of animals. By the 15th century, paper manuscripts were common. Printing spread rapidly in the late 15th century. Subsequent technical achievements, such as the development of offset printing, improved many aspects of book culture. In the late 1990s, downloadable electronic books became available over the Internet.

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(1086) Original record or summary of William I the Conqueror's survey of England. The most remarkable administrative feat of the Middle Ages, the survey was carried out, against popular resentment, by panels of commissioners who compiled accounts of the estates of the king and his tenants. As summarized in the Domesday Book, it now serves as the starting point for the history of most English towns and villages. Originally called “the description of England,” the name Domesday Book (a reference to doomsday, when people face a final accounting of their lives) was later popularly attached to it.

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Ancient Egyptian collection of mortuary texts made up of spells and charms and placed in tombs to aid the deceased in the next world. It was probably compiled and reedited during the 16th century BC. Later compilations included hymns to Re. Scribes produced and sold copies, often colorfully illustrated, for burial use. Of the many extant copies, none contains all of the approximately 200 known chapters.

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Illuminated manuscript version of the four Gospels, circa late 8th–early 9th century. A masterpiece of the ornate Hiberno-Saxon style, it features geometric design (rather than naturalistic representation), flat areas of colour, and complex interlaced patterns. The illumination was probably begun at the Irish monastery on the Scottish island of Iona; the book was apparently taken to the monastery of Kells in County Meath, Ire., after a Viking raid and may have been completed there. Seealso Lindisfarne Gospels.

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Animalia (ISBN 0810918684) is an illustrated children's book by Graeme Base. It was published in 1986.

Animalia is an alphabet book and contains twenty-six illustrations, one for each letter of the alphabet. Each illustration features an animal from the animal kingdom (A is for alligator, B is for butterfly, etc.) along with a short poem utilizing the letter of the page for many of the words. The illustrations contain dozens of small objects that the curious reader can try to identify. As an additional challenge, the author has hidden a picture of himself as a child in every picture. In 1987, Animalia won the title of Honour Book in the Children's Book Council of Australia Picture Book of the Year Awards. In 1996, a tenth anniversary edition was released.

Base also published a colouring book version for children to do their own colouring.

A television series was also created, based on the book, which airs in the United States, Australia, Canada and the UK.

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