#NationalBookLoversDay - History of the Book

Happy National Book Lovers Day! Today we celebrate with a brief and VERY simplified history of how we came to the modern form of the book we know and love.


1.) Paintings and the Oral Tradition The oldest embodiment of visual storytelling began with the literal painting of pictures paired with oral rendition. Rocks, bones, and animal skin served as the medium for storytellers to paint a visual with their spoken words.

  2.) Tablets and Early Writing Written language developed with the growth of civilizations, transforming from pictures to pictographic words and eventually into a cuneiform alphabet. Clay and wooden tablets emerged as the prominent forms of written communication, making the creation, movement and preservation of stories, facts and ideas more sustainable.

  3.) Papyrus and Vellum Scrolls Clay and wood were heavy and inconvenient for transportation and storage. Plants were discovered to be useful for writing needs, and reed leaves became the new medium. Thin strips would be laid and pressed together to form a sheet, then glued to other sheets to form a scroll. Writing was still evolving and the reader had to work hard to discern content, because punctuation was rudimentary at best, and there was no division between words. Over time, an embargo on the export of papyrus forced people to look for a new medium. Parchment made from animal skin (vellum) began to be used and proved to be higher quality. The words could easily be rubbed away on papyrus, but this was not the case with vellum.

  4.) Codex and Illuminated Manuscripts Innovative people began to think outside of the box to make written parchment easier to read. Scrolls were certainly not a handy thing to hold in your hands, and written communication was rapidly developing and becoming more clear for readers. The Codex was created and contained singular pages that could be turned. It was a blending of tablet structure and scroll material. Art and the written word merged. Cursive dominated the page and images surrounded the words. Each beginning opened with a single, large, ornate, capital letter.

  5.) Printing Press Welcome to the Gutenberg Press! The development of the printing press is one of the most significant technologies for communication. People no longer had to go to the source to hear a story. Information could more easily be sent out to the people. More copies of a single book or document could be printed. Previously everything had to be handwritten and checked thoroughly for mistakes. The printing press began the long reign of the modern book that we enjoy today. It brought the world closer together and allowed for language, philosophy, art, and creative thinking to spread to greater lengths.

  Today books are such a celebrated part of our daily lives. Technology is again taking it to new ends; the format of storytelling is always changing, but the influence these stories have had on societies and individuals are timeless. Read on, book lovers, read on.