It is interesting to look back on the history of books. After all, this is an important part of learning. Books carry with it the thoughts and ideas of the past. Even if we were not born centuries ago, we get to know about what happened back then because of these books.

But when exactly were books created?

We can trace their history during the time when writing was developed. The moment the ancient civilisations learned how to write or draw their thoughts on a surface, that was the moment that books were born. Over the centuries, the writing methods evolved and with it, the books evolved too. These written materials come in different forms and sizes but they were all able to convey the messages written on them successfully.

How the history of books evolved over time

So how exactly did the history of books evolve as the civilisations developed over time?

  • In C. 4000 BC, clay tablets were used for pictographs. These soon gave way to cuneiform – a system of writing that was developed by the Sumerians (Mesopotamia) between C. 3500-3000 BCE.
  • In C. 2400 BC, ancient Egyptians used papyrus to write hieratic (sacerdotal writing). It is a simplified version of manuscript writing. The papyrus books were actually scrolls that have several sheets glued together. Some were more than 40 meters long. These are rolled horizontally and kept in cylinders.
  • In C. 1400 to 800 BC, Greeks and Romans used wax-coated tablets that allowed them to write and erase text.
  • In C. 300 BC, parchment started to replace the used of papyrus.
  • In C. 200 BC (and even before), the Chinese wrote on bones, shells, wood and even silk.
  • In the first century AD, the paper was invented in China. Around this time, woodblock printing was used to reproduce text – specifically Buddhist text.
  • In 300 to 800 AD, Mesoamerica recorded information by using long strips of paper, fiber, or hides of animals. These were folded and protected by wooden covers.
  • In 618-907, during the Tang Dynasty, the first printing of books (butterfly books) happened.
  • In C. 800, the Book of Kells was created by monks in Ireland (or Scotland).
  • In C. 1010, the very first novel, the Tale of Genji, was written by Lady Murasaki.
  • In 1455, the printing press was invented by Gutenberg.
  • In 1971, Project Gutenberg worked on placing public domain books online and in downloadable files. It used to be typed individually by volunteers but are now scanned.
  • In 1995, Amazon started selling books online.
  • In 2012, e-books were first included by the New York Times on their best-seller list.

As you can see, the history of books has certainly come a long way. We can now wait and see how technology will further evolve how books will be created and used in the future.