Books come in all shapes, sizes, and formats. They are seen and used almost everywhere. The history of books can be traced back to China and Japan about 1,000 years ago. The first printed books in Europe appeared about 500 years ago.
The oldest known books were baked clay tablets which were used about 55 hundred years ago in Babylon and Nineveh in Mesopotamia. These tablets used symbols that represent the language of the country wherein they were made. The symbols were pressed into the surface of wet clay. When the tablets were baked, the clay became hard and the imprint was preserved.
The Egyptians, used a reedlike plant, called papyrus, for books instead of clay tablets. They stripped off the inner bark and pasted layers of it together making a sort of paper sheet. Several of these sheets were pasted into a long strip. Wooden rollers were then attached to the strip at each end, making a papyrus roll. The writing on it was done in narrow columns with a reed pen. The letters were signs called hieroglyphics.
The Romans used the same concept as the Egyptians, however, they used the treated skin of lambs, calves, or kids as paper. This skin is a fine grade of parchment called vellum. Around 300 A. D., the roll book was replaced by a new form of book, the codex. It consisted of three or four sheets of vellum folded into a section called a gathering. The gatherings could then be sewed together into a book.
The early books were written by hand with a brush, a reed, or a quill. It took many weeks and even months to write a long book. Each book had its own individuality and no two books ever looked exactly alike.
The first printed book was made in China over one thousand years ago. It was printed from type made of baked clay. These Chinese books were printed on paper which the Chinese had invented. The first moveable type was used in Europe and it is believed that Johannes Gutenberg was responsible for it.
The art of printing spread throughout Europe. The most popular book was the Bible. More than thirty thousand different books were printed in the first fifty years of printing.
Many changes have occurred in books and bookmaking. The prominent characteristic of book publishing in the United States is mass production. A publisher may sell hundreds of thousands of copies of a single popular books, called a "Best Seller".