What is a book ? From origins to the digital age


From the material point of view | What is a book ?

O que é um Livro? - Ler em Português

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The book contains stories, memories, recollections. It is a symbol of knowledge and wisdom.

It has been, through the ages, a powerful weapon for new ideas and new philosophies.

But, as a physical object, it has its own characteristics that will determine its longevity and conservation.

In this post we will see what is a book from the material point of view.


The fundamental function of the book is to constitute a writing medium.

As such, throughout history, it has taken on many aspects. Various writing supports were created: clay tablets, papyrus, parchment and, finally, the first binding in history.

the codex

What is a book as we think of it today. We can say that it represents the “birth” of the book because the sewing of hand-stitched parchment sheets was used as a way of compiling pages, making the book easier to handle.

The first known Codex dates back to the Christian era in Rome.

The Codex Vaticanus, which owes its name to being in the Vatican Library since the Sec. XV, dates back to the Sec. IV. written in Greek is considered one of the best texts of the Old and New Testaments.

what is a book codex vaticanus

Codex Vaticanus


It was then through the sewing of several “sheets” of parchment that the book was born.

Parchment is a skin of animal origin subjected to a special treatment that leaves it with a smooth and soft surface.

Parchment can be prepared from the skins of different animals, such as sheep, calf, antelope and pig, with goat skin being the most common.

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The paper

Paper gradually replaced parchment. It appeared in China in the 2nd century, although it only reached Christian Europe much later, in the 13th century.

The main ingredient in paper is cellulose fiber, which is made into a pulp.

Various additives are added to this pulp, which vary according to the type of manufacture and purpose of the paper.

And it is exactly the quality of the raw material and the manufacturing process that will largely influence the conservation of this material.

This material, more functional than parchment, but also less resistant, opens new horizons for the book as a writing support, allowing volumes with a greater amount of text, easily transportable.

The impression

Considered one of the great inventions of humanity, Gutenberg’s press came to allow the mass production of printed books. The transmission of knowledge and learning became progressively easier and more global.

what is a book Gutenberg Bible

Gutenberg Bible at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C.


the libraries

Preservation of books and documents online courseIt can be said that libraries and especially public libraries were another of the great stages in the history of Books and Book Documents.

In general, libraries aim to store, conserve and make available to the public books and other publications in an organized manner.

Its role in the dissemination of knowledge and learning is indisputable. They are also fundamental in the preservation and transmission to the present day of rare and unreproducible book specimens.

What is a book in the digital age

Currently, the accessibility of knowledge is global. Almost everyone can access the knowledge produced; almost all of us can make our knowledge and ideas available globally.

Than what is a book in digital age?

Ebooks, blogs, websites, articles on social networks, allow for the global and instantaneous sharing of knowledge.

They will therefore currently be our main support material for writing and ideas.

To all of us who care about the conservation of our Heritage, one of the great challenges will be the

Preservation of Digital Heritage

In 2003, UNESCO approved a Charter for the Preservation of the Digital Heritage

However, since that date, digital media have already undergone an enormous technological evolution and a lot of information has been produced and lost.

In our effort to preserve Heritage, we have to deal systematically with factors of degradation and loss: pests, water, fire, degradation of materials, etc, etc.

But the idea of what is a book changed and the way tho preserve books and documents is very different.

Now we have a new challenge: how to preserve this “dematerialized” heritage.

It’s time to think and exchange ideas about this!

Leave your opinion in the comments.

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