When is a Book Not a Book?
What makes a book, a book?
Must a book contain a story?
Must there be multiple pages, bound together?
Must it be hand-held?
Does a portable electronic device count?
Is an audiobook a book?
Is a book of stamps a book?
What about a record of financial transactions as in, the company’s books show a profit?
Are any or all of these considered books?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary has 18 different definitions for the word “book.” The first two are what most of us perceive as a traditional book.
- A set of written sheets of skin or paper or tablets of wood or ivory
- A set of written, printed, or blank sheets bound together between a front and back cover
In my earlier posts, The History of the Book, part 1, and The History of the Book, part 2, I discussed books that adhere to these traditional definitions. In this post, we’re going to explore what may be considered an unconventional view of the book.
The History of the Book, Part 2: Saint Patrick
When most people think of Saint Patrick’s Day, they think of shamrocks, green beer, and parades. When I think of Saint Patrick, I think of monks, monasteries, and manuscripts.
You may be surprised to learn that, if not for Saint Patrick and the monks and missionaries that followed him, civilization as we know it may not exist.
To understand this, we need to look back 2,000 years to appreciate the impact of the Roman Empire.
The Roman Empire
Long before the birth of Saint Patrick, the Roman Empire ruled most of the known world. At its peak, the empire reached from Britain into most of Europe and extended into the Middle East and North Africa.
While the Romans, like the Greeks before them, relied heavily on an oral tradition, they were also literate people. An empire the size of Greece or Rome needed written laws and codified business practices. Thus, the Greeks and Romans kept excellent written records. These were written on clay and wax tablets, and on papyrus. Here’s a section of Aristotle’s Constitution of the Athenians.
The History of the Book, Part 1
When we think of Gutenberg, we think of books. His invention of the adjustable mold and his use of metal alloys allowed for the mass-production of movable metal type. This invention, combined with his use of oil-based ink and a wooden printing press, led to the first printing of the most read book in the world, the Bible.
While it was Gutenberg’s system that made it economically viable for printers to mass-produce books, the concept of the “book” pre-dates Gutenberg by thousands of years.
The Printing Museum Recognizes It’s Docents of the Year
Looking Forward to 2019
With the celebration of Ben Franklin’s 313th birthday this week of January 17th, a week traditionally known as International Printing Week, this is an excellent opportunity to reflect on the achievements of the International Printing Museum this last year and our goals and aspirations for 2019. We think of the Printing Museum as the West Coast home for Ben Franklin, Printer!