The history of the book in images
Series of images depicting changing forms of the book and, somewhat more more generally, the text. These forms fall iinto two general types. First, the book--along with paintings, sculptures, and musical works--is a major type of cultural record. But is of course also, as material object, a container of the cultural messages that, collectively speaking, constitute that record. Its long history shows major changes along both these lines. The nature of the message as well as the container-type vary greatly: from the occasional inscriptions found on pottery shards and other small surfaces, to the clay tablet of ancient Mesopotamia and the papyrus scroll--the signature form of the book in the ancient Mediterranean world--to the bound and gathered collection of leaves developed during the early Christian period (the "codex," the most enduring form of all), and finally to the contemporary ebook readers distinguished by a variety of proprietary digital file formats.
Students of the book will be particularly interested in the fact that for most of the many millenia the book has been around, its containers have remained in the public domain, like the air we breathe. This has all changed in the era of the ebook, where the newer technology facilitates the transformation of an "open access" container to a format made available exclusively to the paying customer. Historians working in other areas will recognize the resurfacing of an old familiar pattern: a publicly accessible resource, like the once open hunting and grazing lands of preindustrial societies, are transformed by technology and law into privately-owned resources.
- Clay tablet. Late 3rd millenium BCE
- Ostrakon inscription. Early 5th century BCE.
- Papyrus Fragment. Aristotle's Politics
- Herkulaneischer Meister/Master of Herculaneum
- Wachstafel/Wax Tablet
- Apocalypse. Block-print.
- New Testament manuscript fragment: Johannine Gospel
- Book of hours. European. Late medieval/early modern
- Gutenberg Bible
- Encyclopedie [Francaise] Title Page
- Ebook readers