When books were invented, they became a critical part of life for humans. They provided a way to exchange ideas and knowledge, as well as preserve and share the written word. Today, there are many different ways to access books. For example, there are e-books, which make reading and sharing information much easier. In addition, printed books are widely available.
Gutenberg’s printing press
Gutenberg borrowed money to start a printing workshop in Mainz in 1448. By 1450, he had printed Latin grammar for students, and he had printed church indulgences, or requests for donations to the Catholic Church. Ultimately, the printing press allowed Gutenberg to create uniform Latin Bibles for Europe. The printing press also made it possible to publish books with varying types and designs within a single volume.
The printing press was a new technology, and it had unexpected ramifications. Gutenberg’s invention led to a new culture, one that was largely unimaginable before Gutenberg came along. Within five decades, Gutenberg’s invention could be found in virtually every large city and town.
Roman book trade
The Roman book trade was one of the first forms of publishing. In the first century BC, book merchants paid teams of slaves to copy manuscripts and sell them in shops. At the time, copyright laws did not exist and publishers did not have to pay the authors anything. In order to write a book, an author had to be sponsored by a wealthy Roman and perform readings for his or her patron’s friends.
Roman books were known as codex. They were made of pages bound on the left. Before this, the most common form of reading was through a scroll, or scrollbook. These books could contain many volumes, and the pages were numbered so that they could be referenced later. Codices eventually led to indices and tables of contents.
Writing on papyrus scrolls
The earliest books were written on papyrus scrolls, a cheaper material for those who could afford them. Book rolls were usually made from twenty sheets of papyrus and were relatively inexpensive to make. For casual correspondence, a writing tablet made of wood was used. These tablets were hinged together with a thong and were filled with blackened wax. This wax could be written on with an iron or bronze stylus.
Papyrus scrolls were made from strips of the papyrus plant, and the thickness of the strips varied. Some were two-thirds of a metre wide, while others were no larger than a business card. The best papyrus could be sliced thin to make a flexible paper, but it could not be folded like modern paper.
Early modern book production
Early modern book production started with the invention of the printing press. Early books were cheaply printed on pulp paper. Some titles were so cheap they were called dime novels, after the dollar they cost. Eventually, paperback books became more popular and the price of hardbound books rose. Popular dime novels included the Black Bess or the Knight of the Road series, which ran for 254 episodes.
Printed books quickly gained a commercial niche and began to be considered a cultural reference. For example, Don Quixote, a 16th century Spanish novel, was translated into every language in the western world. In addition, Pancho Sanza talked about himself as a character in a book. During the 16th century, an industry developed to print ballads, broadsheets, and chapbooks. The advent of printing made this type of publication more accurate and errata slips allowed for corrections.
Paperbacks were first printed nearly 90 years ago, by a company called Penguin Books. The company was founded by Allen Lane, a managing editor of the Bodley Head publishing company. Lane had a vision for the company: to publish more affordable, high-quality literature. His goal was to have a book cost no more than sixpence – about sixteen cents in the U.S. – so that people of all income levels could buy it. In 1934, he and his brother decided to launch their own imprint called “Penguin Books” to meet that goal.
When paperback books were first introduced in the market, they revolutionized the book industry. The first mass-market paperback line appeared in 1939. The idea of mass-market paperback books was originally conceived by Charles Dickens, who was only 23 years old at the time. Although he was not particularly wealthy, he is still credited with inventing the paperback book.