Who Invented Books? | COLOSSAL QUESTIONS


– [Narrator] There’s no better
way to spend a cold rainy day than curled up with
a book you love. But who actually invented
books in the first place? Let’s find out on
today’s episode of– – [Announcer]
“Colossal Questions!” – [Narrator] The very
first forms of writing date back almost
6,000 years ago, to an ancient people
called the Sumerians, who started etching in
their early alphabet into moist clay tablets
using a triangular tool called a calimus. The clay was then fired
in a kiln to harden. This new ability,
writing things down, proved to be popular, and for
the next 1,000 or so years, tablets were the only
good way to do it. That’s until papyrus
scrolls came along. The oldest known scrolls
date back to Ancient Egypt, almost 4,500 years ago. Papyrus is a thick material made from thin strands
of papyrus plant stem glued together that’s more
like a fabric than a paper. This was an upgrade from
the heavy clay tablets, but scrolls still
weren’t simple. They were usually between
10 and 50 feet long and usually took
two hands to use because they were so heavy. The papyrus would
also crack easily, but before long, the
Romans had a solution. They created the codex, which sounds like
a secret gadget, but is just a series of scrolls
that were bound together and opened like a book. The wooden covers
protected the pages, which were now made from a
material called parchment, made from animal skins. Over in China, the
earliest books were made of thin pieces of bamboo
bound together with hemp, silk, or leather. Sometime between 618 and 907, the very first books
were printed in China. They were made using a
time-consuming method called woodblock printing, where the words are carved into
wood and stamped onto pages. In the 1040s, a Chinese
man named Bi Sheng invented movable type printing, which used premade character
blocks made of ceramic or clay. This design would
later be improved on by Johannes Gutenberg, who
invented the printing press. This changed everything,
because for the first time, books were
mass-produced quickly. Before the printing press, people only copied a
couple pages per day, but now thousands of
pages could be produced. That means that books, and the incredible
knowledge they can contain, became available for
more and more people at cheaper and cheaper prices. Today, books are all made from
using the same basic process. The words are printed
on big sheets of paper, which are cut into smaller pages double the length of a book. Those pages are then folded
in half and sewn together. Finally, the sewn and folded
pages are cut to final size and glued to the spine
of the book’s cover. Today, what we think of as
a book is always changing. eBooks, audiobooks, and
other digital readers are becoming a bigger and
bigger part of daily life. But most experts agree
that physical, bound books will never go away completely.

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