Interesting facts about books

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.

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 still considered as an investment of time to read.

It is well said that books can be your best and true companion, books simplifies our lives, and allow its readers to internalize, respond, react and transform. Books are indeed more reliable.

Reading is great fun for many people, but it also has many benefits for your mental health in the form of thinking and understanding.

By concentrating on the words and the storyline, it stimulates your brain and cognitive functions. This particular stimulation can help sharpen your mind, especially the part of the brain that is responsible for concentration and critical analysis. Reading sharpens this part of the brain much like you would sharpen a knife. This sharpening of the mind will eventually heighten your focus when concentrating on something important.

The history of the book starts with the development of writing, and various other inventions such as paper and printing, and continues through to the modern-day business of book printing.

The earliest knowledge society have on the history of books actually predates what would conventionally be called “books” today and begins with tablets, scrolls, and sheets of papyrus. (The current format that we consider to be books, with separate sheets fastened together rather than a scroll, is called a codex (plural codices)).

Then hand-bound, expensive, and elaborate manuscripts appeared in codex form. These gave way to press-printed volumes and eventually led to the mass-printed volumes prevalent today. Contemporary books may even have no physical presence with the advent of the e-book. The book also became more accessible to the disabled with the advent of Braille and spoken books.

Clay tablets were used in Mesopotamia in the 3rd millennium BC. The calamus, an instrument with a triangular point, was used to inscribe characters in moist clay. Fire was used to dry the tablets out.

Papyrus is a material similar to thick paper that was used in ancient times as a writing surface. It is first known to have been used in Egypt, as the papyrus plant was once abundant across the Nile Delta. It was also used throughout the Mediterranean region and in the Kingdom of Kush. Apart from a writing material, ancient Egyptians employed papyrus in the construction of other artifacts, such as reed boats, mats, rope, sandals, and baskets.

The scroll of papyrus is called “volumen” in Latin, a word which signifies “circular movement,” “roll,” “spiral,” “whirlpool,” “revolution” (similar, perhaps, to the modern English interpretation of “swirl”) and finally “a roll of writing paper, a rolled manuscript, or a book.”

Before the introduction of books, writing on bone, shells, wood and silk was prevalent in China long before the 2nd century BC, until paper was invented in China around the 1st century AD.

In Mesoamerica, information was recorded on long strips of paper, agave fibers, or animal hides, which were then folded and protected by wooden covers.

The Greeks adopted the papyrus roll and passed it on to the Romans. The vellum or parchment codex, which had superseded the roll by AD 400, was a revolutionary change in the form of the book. The codex introduced several advantages: a series of pages could be opened to any point in the text, both sides of the leaf could carry the message, and longer texts could be bound in a single volume.

Papermaking has traditionally been traced to China about 105 AD, when Cai Lun, an official attached to the Imperial court during the Han dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD), created a sheet of paper using mulberry and other bast fibres along with fishnets, old rags, and hemp waste.

The medieval vellum or parchment leaves were prepared from the skins of animals. By the 15th century paper manuscripts were common. During the Middle Ages, monasteries characteristically had libraries and scriptoria, places in which scribes copied books. The manuscript books of the Middle Ages, the models for the first printed books, were affected by the rise of Humanism and the growing interest in vernacular languages in the 14th and 15th centuries.

The invention of the moveable type on the printing press by Johann Fust, Peter Schoffer, and Johannes Gutenberg around 1440 marks the entry of the book into the industrial age. The Western book was no longer a single object, written or reproduced by request.

A lot of extremely detailed text was produced in early 17th century Japan. For instance, Hitomi Hitsudai spent sixty years taking field notes on 499 types of edible flowers and animals for his book Honchō shokkan (The Culinary Mirror of the Realm).

There was a great expansion in the reading public in the 17th and 18th centuries in the West, in part because of the increasing literacy of women. Type designs were advanced. The lithographic process of printing illustrations, discovered at the end of the 18th century, was significant because it became the basis for offset printing.

In the 19th century the mechanization of printing provided the means for meeting the increased demand for books in industrialized societies.

In the 20th century the book maintained a role of cultural ascendancy, although challenged by new media for dissemination of knowledge and its storage and retrieval.

After World War II, an increase in use of colour illustration, particularly in children’s books and textbooks, was an obvious trend, facilitated by the development of improved high-speed, offset printing.

The best-selling book of all time is the Christian Bible. It is impossible to know exactly how many copies have been printed in the roughly 1500 years since its contents were standardized, but research conducted by the British and Foreign Bible Society in 2021 suggests that the total number probably lies between 5 and 7 billion copies.

The largest book measures 5 m x 8.06 m (16.40 ft x 26.44 ft), weighs approximately 1500 kg (3,306 lb) and consists of 429 pages. The book was unveiled by Mshahed International Group, in Dubai, UAE, on 27 February 2012.

The Codex Leicester is a collection of scientific writings by Leonardo da Vinci. The Codex is named after Thomas Coke, who purchased it in 1719 – he later became the Earl of Leicester. The manuscript currently holds the record for the fifth highest sale price of any book: it was sold to Bill Gates at Christie’s auction house on 11 November 1994 in New York for US$30,802,500 (equivalent to $53,222,898.79 in 2019).

On 26 November 2013, a copy of the Bay Psalm Book was sold in an auction at Sotheby’s, New York, USA, for US$ 14,165,000 – the highest price that a book has ever fetched at auction. The Bay Psalm Book dates from the year 1640, and is the first book ever printed in British North America. Just 1,700 copies were produced by the residents of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The book sold at Sotheby’s was one of 11 surviving copies, and was purchased by American businessman David Rubenstein.

Around 130 million books have been published in the history of humanity.

There are somewhere between 600,000 to 1,000,000 books published every year in the US alone.