The Evolution of the Book



“CODEX” was considered as the earliest example of book. It was basically a collection of pages that were stacked together and combined along one edge. However, the real milestone of book history was the printing press established by Johannes Gutenberg around the mid-15th century. In the eastern culture, the movable type was established much earlier. But this press by Gutenberg had taken this foundation to another level.  But suddenly, the ruling class and the religious monk have no control over the production of the texts. This led to very fast spreading of the messages. And constant production of the copies of books. This also resulted in printing house popping all over the Europe.

Formation Of Each Element

Coming to the basic structure of the book, it consists of paper, type and cover.

Before this event, China invented paper 2000years ago, that too as writing medium. Afterwards, it was predated by Egyptian papyrus. Until 16th Century, Europeans mainly use plain sheets of wood and parchment paper as a writing medium. Gradually with time use of paper spread through the universe. This slowly replaced the parchment as printing became less expensive in bulk. Now coming to inks. Organic plant and animal dyes were treated with water and wine. But water have the tendency of non-sticking to metal surface, hence the printing press gradually started demanding different material for ink. It shifted to oil-based ink. Black ink was made of lamp soot, turpentine and walnut oil. For the font size, movable pieces were used consisting reverse letters cast in relief on the ends of lead alloy stocks which were handmade. Some designs also began to vary depending upon the artist who carved the molds. Thus, they were expensive. Hence, standardization became quite impossible until an accessible mass manufacturing word processing system was established.

Nicholas Jenson, developed two types of Roman font that formed the base of all other forms. Other forms derived from it, including the familiar Times Roman.

For the covers, wood or multiple sheets pasted together were used until 15th century. Eventually with time, they got replaced by rope fiber millboard. Their prime use was to hold high quality bindings in the late 17th Century. Later it emerged as a less expensive option as well.

The spines on the books were initially designed to be in a rectangular shape. This allowed the reader a easier approach to read the books as they can be opened easily and rest it on the table. However, it had a drawback. The spines get easily damaged from the stresses of normal use. Thus, later they were replaced by round form. They became more flexible and durable but another minor problem arose. The book gets closed on itself.

Present Context

Today’s mass production involves cover illustration and pictures and many more. Now days, books are even replaced by e-books and kindles. They cannot be the ideal form of book. However, it is what it is and we have to work with what we have.

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