A book is a medium for recording information in the form of writing or images, typically composed of many pages bound together and protected by a cover. The technical term for this physical arrangement is codex. In the history of hand-held physical supports for extended written compositions or records, the codex replaces its immediate predecessor, the scroll. A single sheet in a codex is a leaf, and each side of a leaf is a page.
As an intellectual object, a book is prototypically a composition of such great length that it takes a considerable investment of time to compose and a still considerable, though not so extensive, investment of time to read. This sense of book has a restricted and an unrestricted sense. In the restricted sense, a book is a self-sufficient section or part of a longer composition, a usage that reflects the fact that, in antiquity, long works had to be written on several scrolls, and each scroll had to be identified by the book it contained. So, for instance, each part of Aristotle's Physics is called a book. In the unrestricted sense, a book is the compositional whole of which such sections, whether called books or chapters or parts, are parts.
The intellectual content in a physical book need not be a composition, nor even be called a book. Books can consist only of drawings, engravings, or photographs, or such things as crossword puzzles or cut-out dolls. In a physical book, the pages can be left blank or can feature an abstract set of lines as support for ongoing entries, e.g., an account book, an appointment book, an autograph book, a notebook, a diary, or a sketchbook. Some physical books are made with pages thick and sturdy enough to support other physical objects, like a scrapbook or photograph album. Books may be distributed in electronic form as e-books and other formats.
Although in ordinary academic parlance a monograph is understood to be a specialist academic work, rather than a reference work on a single scholarly subject, in library and information science monograph denotes more broadly any non-serial publication complete in one volume or a finite number of volumes, in contrast to serial publications like a magazine, journal, or newspaper. An avid reader or collector of books is a bibliophile or colloquially, "bookworm". A shop where books are bought and sold is a bookshop or bookstore. Books are also sold elsewhere. Books can also be borrowed from libraries. Google has estimated that as of 2010, approximately 130,000,000 distinct titles had been published. In some wealthier nations, the sale of printed books has decreased because of the increased usage of e-books.


The word book comes from Old English bōc, which in turn comes from the Germanic root *bōk-, cognate to 'beech'. Similarly, in Slavic languages буква is cognate with 'beech'. In Russian, Serbian and Macedonian, the word букварь or буквар refers specifically to a primary school textbook that helps young children master the techniques of reading and writing. It is thus conjectured that the earliest Indo-European writings may have been carved on beech wood. Similarly, the Latin word codex, meaning a book in the modern sense, originally meant 'block of wood'.



ian clay tablet, currently housed in the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago, inscribed with the text of the poem Inanna and Ebih by the priestess Enheduanna, the first author whose name is known|270x270px
When writing systems were created in ancient civilizations, a variety of objects, such as stone, clay, tree bark, metal sheets, and bones, were used for writing; these are studied in epigraphy.


A tablet is a physically robust writing medium, suitable for casual transport and writing. Clay tablets were flattened and mostly dry pieces of clay that could be easily carried, and impressed with a stylus. They were used as a writing medium, especially for writing in cuneiform, throughout the Bronze Age and well into the Iron Age. Wax tablets were pieces of wood covered in a coating of wax thick enough to record the impressions of a stylus. They were the normal writing material in schools, in accounting, and for taking notes. They had the advantage of being reusable: the wax could be melted, and reformed into a blank.
The custom of binding several wax tablets together is a possible precursor of modern bound books. The etymology of the word codex also suggests that it may have developed from wooden wax tablets.


of Hunefer; c. 1275 BC; ink and pigments on papyrus; 45 × 90.5 cm; British Museum
Scrolls can be made from papyrus, a thick paper-like material made by weaving the stems of the papyrus plant, then pounding the woven sheet with a hammer-like tool until it is flattened. Papyrus was used for writing in Ancient Egypt, perhaps as early as the First Dynasty, although the first evidence is from the account books of King Neferirkare Kakai of the Fifth Dynasty. Papyrus sheets were glued together to form a scroll. Tree bark such as lime and other materials were also used.
According to Herodotus, the Phoenicians brought writing and papyrus to Greece around the 10th or 9th century BC. The Greek word for papyrus as writing material and book come from the Phoenician port town Byblos, through which papyrus was exported to Greece. From Greek we also derive the word tome, which originally meant a slice or piece and from there began to denote "a roll of papyrus".
Tomus was used by the Latins with exactly the same meaning as volumen.
Whether made from papyrus, parchment, or paper, scrolls were the dominant form of book in the Hellenistic, Roman, Chinese, Hebrew, and Macedonian cultures. The more modern codex book format form took over the Roman world by late antiquity, but the scroll format persisted much longer in Asia.


Isidore of Seville explained the then-current relation between codex, book and scroll in his Etymologiae : "A codex is composed of many books; a book is of one scroll. It is called codex by way of metaphor from the trunks of trees or vines, as if it were a wooden stock, because it contains in itself a multitude of books, as it were of branches." Modern usage differs.
A codex is the first information repository that modern people would recognize as a "book": leaves of uniform size bound in some manner along one edge, and typically held between two covers made of some more robust material. The first written mention of the codex as a form of book is from Martial, in his Apophoreta CLXXXIV at the end of the first century, where he praises its compactness. However, the codex never gained much popularity in the pagan Hellenistic world, and only within the Christian community did it gain widespread use. This change happened gradually during the 3rd and 4th centuries, and the reasons for adopting the codex form of the book are several: the format is more economical, as both sides of the writing material can be used; and it is portable, searchable, and easy to conceal. A book is much easier to read, to find a page that you want, and to flip through. A scroll is more awkward to use. The Christian authors may also have wanted to distinguish their writings from the pagan and Judaic texts written on scrolls. In addition, some metal books were made, that required smaller pages of metal, instead of an impossibly long, unbending scroll of metal. A book can also be easily stored in more compact places, or side by side in a tight library or shelf space.


contains an author portrait of Virgil. Note the bookcase, reading stand and the text written without word spacing in rustic capitals.
The fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century AD saw the decline of the culture of ancient Rome. Papyrus became difficult to obtain due to lack of contact with Egypt, and parchment, which had been used for centuries, became the main writing material. Parchment is a material made from processed animal skin and used—mainly in the past—for writing on.
Parchment is most commonly made of calfskin, sheepskin, or goatskin. It was historically used for writing documents, notes, or the pages of a book. Parchment is limed, scraped and dried under tension. It is not tanned, and is thus different from leather. This makes it more suitable for writing on, but leaves it very reactive to changes in relative humidity and makes it revert to rawhide if overly wet.
Monasteries carried on the Latin writing tradition in the Western Roman Empire. Cassiodorus, in the monastery of Vivarium, stressed the importance of copying texts. St. Benedict of Nursia, in his
Rule of Saint Benedict later also promoted reading. The Rule of Saint Benedict, which set aside certain times for reading, greatly influenced the monastic culture of the Middle Ages and is one of the reasons why the clergy were the predominant readers of books. The tradition and style of the Roman Empire still dominated, but slowly the peculiar medieval book culture emerged.
anachronistically depicts the Biblical Ezra with the kind of books used in the 8th Century AD.
Before the invention and adoption of the printing press, almost all books were copied by hand, which made books expensive and comparatively rare. Smaller monasteries usually had only a few dozen books, medium-sized perhaps a few hundred. By the 9th century, larger collections held around 500 volumes and even at the end of the Middle Ages, the papal library in Avignon and Paris library of the Sorbonne held only around 2,000 volumes.
scriptorium of the monastery was usually located over the chapter house. Artificial light was forbidden for fear it may damage the manuscripts. There were five types of scribes:
, from his
Miracles de Notre Dame, 15th century.
The bookmaking process was long and laborious. The parchment had to be prepared, then the unbound pages were planned and ruled with a blunt tool or lead, after which the text was written by the scribe, who usually left blank areas for illustration and rubrication. Finally, the book was bound by the bookbinder.
of Cesena, Italy.
Different types of ink were known in antiquity, usually prepared from soot and gum, and later also from gall nuts and iron vitriol. This gave writing a brownish black color, but black or brown were not the only colors used. There are texts written in red or even gold, and different colors were used for illumination. For very luxurious manuscripts the whole parchment was colored purple, and the text was written on it with gold or silver.
Irish monks introduced spacing between words in the 7th century. This facilitated reading, as these monks tended to be less familiar with Latin. However, the use of spaces between words did not become commonplace before the 12th century. It has been argued that the use of spacing between words shows the transition from semi-vocalized reading into silent reading.
The first books used parchment or vellum for the pages. The book covers were made of wood and covered with leather. Because dried parchment tends to assume the form it had before processing, the books were fitted with clasps or straps. During the later Middle Ages, when public libraries appeared, up to the 18th century, books were often chained to a bookshelf or a desk to prevent theft. These chained books are called
libri catenati''.
At first, books were copied mostly in monasteries, one at a time. With the rise of universities in the 13th century, the Manuscript culture of the time led to an increase in the demand for books, and a new system for copying books appeared. The books were divided into unbound leaves, which were lent out to different copyists, so the speed of book production was considerably increased. The system was maintained by secular stationers guilds, which produced both religious and non-religious material.
Judaism has kept the art of the scribe alive up to the present. According to Jewish tradition, the Torah scroll placed in a synagogue must be written by hand on parchment and a printed book would not do, though the congregation may use printed prayer books and printed copies of the Scriptures are used for study outside the synagogue. A sofer "scribe" is a highly respected member of any observant Jewish community.