Cover to cover -Anato my of the book


What is a book and what goes in making of a book? In this series of articles, GS Jolly will explain the attributes of a book and the insight into its production.

3500 BC – Symbols onto Tablets 200 BC – Wax Tablets developed (top), 400 – 600 AD – Illustrations added (Middle)According to UNESCO, “A book is a non-periodical printed publication of at least 49 or more pages exclusive of covers published in a country and made available to the public.” It can also be defined as “ a series of sheets of paper, mostly of uniform size, bearing either text or illustration or both, placed in a desired logical sequence, held firmly together(bound) at one edge in a manner that facilitates, its viewing, reading and reference. And that its multiple copies are reproduced by mechanical, photographic and non-manual methods.”

US Postal Service definition describes it as “ Bound publication having 24 or more pages, at least 22 of which are printed and contain primary reading material, with advertising limited only to book announcements.” A book produced in electronic format is known as e-book.

A lover of books is usually referred to as a bibliophile, a bibliophilist, or, more informally, a bookworm.

The evolution of the book

As books have now reached the 21st century with the creation of the increasingly popular e-book format, it would be a good idea to take a look back at the long and involved history of the humble book. From the clay tablets to the e-book format, the book has enjoyed a remarkable evolution, presented here is a snapshot of that history. The very first book was printed on paper in China, using a block of wood that had characters carved in reverse relief. Ink was then placed on the block of wood to create a print on paper. This technique is known as “block printing” or more accurately in this case “woodblock printing” and was originally used as early as 220 AD as a means of printing on cloth.

The Gutenberg Bible is the earliest book printed in Europe using movable type: the invention that changed the world. It was printed by Johannes Gutenberg and his associates in Mainz, Germany, between 1454 and 1455. Between 160 and 180 copies were printed, but only 36 printed on paper and 12 on vellum have survived. Many have handpainted decoration worthy of an illuminated manuscript. Despite his invention, Gutenberg never became rich. Peter Schoeffer, one of Gutenberg’s craftsmen, made money where he had failed.

Parts of a book

Most books will have at least a front and back cover, title page, and body text but usually there will be many more parts of a book. Let us explore the physical components of hardcover and soft cover books that make up the text portion of most books.

A book cover is a protective covering used to bind together the pages of a book. Beyond the familiar distinction between hardcovers and paperbacks, there are further alternatives and additions, such as dust jackets, ring-binding, and older forms such as the nineteenth-century “paper-boards” and the traditional types of hand-binding.

In early nineteenth century great changes began to occur in how a book might be covered. With the gradual introduction of techniques for mechanical book-binding, cloth, and then paper, became the staple materials used when books became so cheap—thanks to the introduction of steam-powered presses and mechanically produced paper—that to have them hand-bound became disproportionate to the cost of the book itself.

(Next issue, we will discuss on the importance of the book cover.)

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