By Ellen Madden

In this article, we will see how manuscripts have been created and formed into books available in all physical formats and electronic formats. They are available to you in bookshops around the globe and, the online world.

As many of you may be unaware the creation of manuscripts dates back to Mesopotamia between 3500 BC and 3000 BC. These were created by using clay tablets with markings made from calamus. This is a sharpened reed stem known as cuneiform. There was great evidence to show that this is true, as there were 20,000 tablets found in Nineveh that can be dated back well into the seventh century. They are in the Library and Archive of the Kings of Assyria. This process was used well up until the nineteenth century in many countries, such as Chile, Germany, the Philippines, and the Sahara Desert.

Later, manuscripts were produced in 3000 BC in Egypt. Egyptians would have humidified, pressed, dried, glued, and cut the papers into smaller sheets. They then rolled the papyrus plant strips into a scroll, which was fourteen to fifty-two feet long! As they were opened horizontally, this resulted in these manuscripts being cracked easily. In approximately 2400 BC, the Fifth Dynasty King Neferirkare Kakai owned these types of manuscripts.

From 500 to 200 BC in Greece, Roman scholar Verro invented books by using sheep and goat skin to make durable parchment paper. Unfortunately, as we all know, parchment paper becomes sensitive to changes in humidity, such as how it gets ruined when it gets wet. Even though vellum is the highest quality of parchment paper.

In China around 100 BC, Ts’ai Lun invented a different process for making manuscripts, which were made from the bark of mulberry plants, hemp, or old rags or fish nets. The first book was “Jiandu” or “Jiance,” which was made from dried bamboo that was cut thinly and bound with silk, leather, or hemp. Woodblock printing was the first type of reproducing process invented.

The last time manuscripts were remodeled in Rome was 100 BC. Manuscripts were bound by animal skin known as vellum between wooden covers, referred to as codex. These manuscripts also had a table of contents and an index page. Codex made manuscripts simpler and easier to transport than scrolls. In the beginning stages of Christianity, Christians would have shared their gospels using this method with other countries.

The first book was invented in the fourth millennium BC and was bound by the Diamond Sutra. They were created during the Tang Dynasty in the first century AD by using woodblock printing. Monks in the Middle Ages made copies into books by hand, which was an extremely expensive way for readers to purchase books at this time. Each book was unique and individually crafted by the scribe, bookbinder, owner, and illustrator. Between 600 and 800 AD, illustrations were handwritten and only produced on parchment manuscripts. These magnificent books were decorated in gold and silver, with illustrations added later.

Nowadays, publishers such as Penguin can print books using a print-on-demand system which saves the publishing house time and money, as they don’t print unwanted books. Since 1971, due to technological advancements, Project Gutenberg was able to have various books available online to us, the avid readers. Without this project, we would never be able to have eBooks available on different book apps on our phones or be able to own a Kindle.