I purposely didn’t title this post “History of Books,” because according to Wikipedia: The History of the Book is an academic discipline that studies the production, transmission, circulation, and dissemination of text from antiquity to the present day.
I was curious what was the first book ever published and did some research on this question. It seems there are some similar opinions about that, in particular since historians disagree on the term “book.” While some say, written text on parchment, papyrus, wood or different other material, a collection of pages between two ‘covers’ are a book; others insist that a roll of parchment or even a collection of rolls or pages are not a book as long as the pages aren’t bound.
Now, it seems the first written language that we know of was archaic cuneiform. What we know it was dated around 3400 BD during ancient Sumerian civilization. (located in current Iraq). The first written story that we know of was The Epic of Gilgamesh, a ruler of the Sumerian state of Uruk. Gilgamesh was believed to have lived between 2700 – 2500 BC. It seems there are several fragmented versions of the story, they were written at different times, the oldest dated around 2100 BC. The most complete version was written on clay tablets and discovered in the ruins of the largest library in the pre-Hellenic ancient world, Nineveh in Assyria. These clay tablets can be viewed in the British Museum.
The first book published in North America was The Whole Booke of Psalmes. It was printed in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1640. It seems eleven copies of this first edition still exist.
I discovered several lists of the oldest, still existing ‘books’ in the world. These lists are quite similar, even though there is a protest that the one or other ‘book’ is missing. But I guess this might be an interpretation of the term ‘book’ once again.
• Etruscan Gold Book – approx. 2,700 years old
• Nag Hammadi Library – approx.. 1,700 years old
• St. Cuthbert Gospel – approx. 1,300 years old
• Siddur, Jewish Prayer book – approx. 1,200 years old
• Diamond Sutra – approx. 1,150 years old
• Celtic Psalter – approx.: 950 years old
• Gutenberg Bible – approx. 560 years old
Of course, there are so many examples I cannot mention here at this point. These were just the ones that were the most noticeable during my research.
Over the past millennia, the bookbinding industry has progressed. First slowly, then faster. I’m talking about the clay tablets, the manuscripts, the parchment rolls, the first codex’, the first books, illustrations, hardcovers, paperbacks, e-readers, and of course books we can read on every existing tablet.
When I thought about this evolution of books all of a sudden, I burst out into laughter. Did you notice, in my recital, I used the same word twice to describe two completely different ‘things’?
I admit, this fact caused a certain cheerfulness in my heart. “Retro.” Even the book industry is affected.
BACK TO THE ROOTS
TABLET vs. TABLET