What Are Books?

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St. Michael's College Courses
Francesco Guardiani

BOOKS/LITERARY GENRES (Add image) ETYMOLOGY The word “book” in English is derived from Northern European languages, and has been noted to especially be rooted in the Danish word, bog which means “birch tree”. In Denmark, the birch tree was most plentiful and was used for engravings (see Donaldson 12). The Latin word for “book”, liber was used by the Romans to describe the thin layer of wood between the bark and the tree trunk. They used this layer of peel to write on before parchment and paper. The Oxford English Dictionary offers the following in the way of the etymology of “book”: A common Germanic word, differing however in gender and other points in the various languages. With Old English bóc monosyllabic feminine (plural béc) compare Old Frisian and Old Saxon bôk (plural bôk) feminine and neuter (Middle Dutch boek neuter and often masculine, Dutch boek masculine), Old High German buoh (plural buoh) neuter, also masculine and feminine (Middle High German buoch, modern German buch neuter), Old Norse bók (plural ) feminine (Swedish bok, Danish bog), all in sense of ‘written document, book’. These forms indicate an Germanic *bôk-s strong feminine, the plural of which was in Old High German and elsewhere sometimes made neuter (after the analogy of neuter monosyllabic plurals), and this gender extended to the singular. The original meaning was evidently ‘writing-tablet, leaf, or sheet’: compare Venantius Fortunatus Carm. vii. 18, 19 ‘barbara fraxineis pingatur runa tabellis’, also Old Saxon thia bôk the writing-tablet, ‘pugillaris’ Luke i. 63 (in Heliand 232, 235), Old English bóc charter: in plural tablets, written sheets, hence ‘book,’ a sense subsequently extended to the singular. Gothic does not show *bôks, but an apparently derivative form bôka strong feminine, in sense of ‘letter’ of the alphabet, plural bôkôs litteræ, γράμματα, writing, document, book. Generally thought to be etymologically connected with the name of the beech- tree, Old English bóc, béce, Old Norse bók , the suggestion being that inscriptions were first made on beechen tablets, or cut in the bark of beechtrees; but there are great difficulties in reconciling the early forms of the two words, seeing that bôk-s ‘writing-tablet’ is the most primitive of all. The Canadian Oxford Dictionary defines “book” as such: book n. 1 a a written or printed work consisting of pages glued or sewn together along one side and bound in covers. b a literary composition intended for publication. 2 a bound set of blank sheets for writing or keeping records in. 3 a set of tickets, cheques, etc., bound up together. 4 (in pl.) a set of records or accounts. 5 a main division of a literary work or the bible. 6 a libretto etc. 7 a telephone directory (my number’s in the book). 8 a record of bets made and money paid out at a race meeting by a bookmaker. 9 an imaginary record or list (broke every rule in the book). v. 1 tr. a engage (a seat etc.) in advance; make a reservation of. b engage (a guest etc.) for some occasion. 2 tr. a take the personal details of. b enter in a book or list. 3 tr. issue a railway etc. ticket to. 4 intr. make a reservation. (Canadian Oxford Dictionary 100) TIMELINE (Use thumbnail images for timeline) 4000 BC – First instance of recorded ideographic, syllabic and alphabetical lettering; i.e., Egyptian Hieroglyphics are written on ancient monument (preserved in the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford). 283 BC – The founding of the celebrated library at Alexandria by Ptolemy Soter. It held more hand-written books than any other library before the invention of printed books. At one point the library held 700 000 volumes. In 640 AD, however, the Arabs burnt the books, the fire from which served to heat all the baths in the city for over six months straight. 1 Cent. AD – The “Codex” is invented. The codex was the first form of the book as we know it today. The word comes from the Latin caudex and means a bound collection of gathered sheets of paper or vellum in the form of quires. 4 Cent. AD – The square form of the book was adopted as the accepted shape. Covers were also made more elaborate and artistic, often bejeweled with precious stones, painted with extensive borders and detail and gilded before being encased in individual silken boxes. 872-915 – The first recorded use of the word bócland from which our current word “book” was derived. Bócland refers to a written document that portrays a charter of land. 1456 – The first book, “the Gutenberg Bible” is printed using a movable type printer invented by Johann Gutenberg in Mainz, Germany (1450). 1474 – The printing press comes to England. William Caxton sought training in printing in Cologne and brought his knowledge to England in 1471. There he succeeded in printing the first book (which he also authored), entitled, The Game and Playe of the Chesse. 1500-1600 – Books are chained to their shelves in European college libraries as well as in churches to prevent theft and to allow for general, shared use of volumes. 1600s – The invention of the “horn-book” for European school children. The horn-book was a printed board of oak containing on its surface the nine digits, the alphabet and sometimes a prayer. It had a horn covering to protect it from getting ruined and a handle for convenient carrying. 1640 – The printing press comes to New England. Using the printing press brought to Cambridge, Massachusetts by then deceased Rev. Jose Glover, locksmith Stephen Daye prints 1 700 copies of The Whole Booke of Psalms Faithfully Translated into English Metre. 1752 – Bostonian John Bushell brings the first printing press to Canada. 1867 – The federal dominion of Canada is formed on Confederation, July 1 st. 1957 – The Canada Council for the Arts is created. 1971 – Michael S. Hart creates the first digital library of books, pioneering the invention of the e-book. 1976 – Saul Bellow is first Canadian ever to win the Nobel Prize for literature. HISTORY of The BOOK The Gutenberg Novelty The book as we know it has had a long and interesting history. Most notably was the turning point in 1456 at which time Juhann Gutenberg invented the printing press. Up to that point, people had relied on scribes to hand-write and copy manuscripts word for word. Gutenberg’s first printed book was the Bible and with it, he changed the medium of the book from a rare and expensive novelty to a common and abundant form of communication that came to accelerate globalization much in a similar way to how the invention of the internet has brought cultures closer. Today, the Gutenberg bible is considered the most expensive book in the world. Three copies were sold to three different parties in 1978. The Gutenberg Museum in Mainz bought one copy for $1 800 000. The West German Library in Stuttgart bought another for $2 000 000 and the University of Texas bought a third copy for $2 400 000, which is the highest price ever paid for a single book (see Donaldson 20). From Intensive Reading to Extensive Reading Historians Robert Darnton and Rolf Engelsing agree that a marked change in reading practices occurred between the Middle Ages and the latter half of the 18 Century. During this early period, people had little access to books and owned only a few titles such as the bible, an almanac and a devotional work. The books and their readings were shared in groups and the activity of reading took place orally. Because there were so few books, people read the same ones over and over and contributed to extensive interpretations of the readings. The act of reading included more than just the visual sense and was meant to impress the words onto the minds of the readers/listeners. Memorizing and thinking deeply about texts became important skills. By the 1800s, however, there was a shift in culture from intensive reading to extensive reading. As printing became more widespread and books were attained more easily and in higher quantities, people came to value the number of books read over the quality of the reading. Reading then became a hastier, solitary activity whereby people emphasized quantity of books read over a quality, in-depth reading of a few books (see Birkerts 71). *transversal reading (lettura tranversale) The Case of Menocchio Menocchio was a 16 Century miller who owned only a few books. In Historian Carlo Ginzburg’s book, The Cheese and the Worms, he psychoanalyses the character and the thought processes of Menocchio based solely on the books he held in his possession and which he read repeatedly and intensely. At the time, education as we know it was not accessible to all, and nor were large quantities of books. As the only form of media that carried recorded information, the few books each household kept would shape the attitudes, consciousness and beliefs of the people who had access to them. At the end of the 16 Century, Menocchio was burned at the stake during the Roman Inquisition. There was a trial held to interrogate the miller about his belief that the earth was formed as a result of chaos, rather than the traditional Catholic understanding that God made the earth. His many readings of the same books came to shape his interpretations and influence him to question and reflect upon religion and society. At the time, books were thought of as the most powerful and even dangerous medium of information in the world. “It’s Bibliomania!” The 18 and 19 Century Boom in Book Proliferation The 1800s saw a widespread European craze for books that can only be retrospectively considered as a sort of bibliomania (see Donaldson 19). Until the 18 and 19 th Centuries, people had limited exposure to books. The reasons for this include a lower rate of literacy since public education was yet not obligatory and fewer printed books available for distribution. Indeed, since the earliest known reading civilization in 625- 587 BCE Assyria, people did not bring individual copies of books home with them, but rather went to libraries to borrow and share books on site (see Murray 4). But beginning in 1650, European values underwent a major cultural shift. The Age of Enlightenment swept across the continent until the beginning of the 18 Century. Philosophical writings by Spinoza, Locke, Kant and others inspired a new way of thinking—namely, one that was based on reason rather than tradition or religion. Academies were created to aid the secular governments in scientific research, which resulted in a blending of the classes. Rates of literacy began to increase and books were disseminated to the rural and peasant areas. The state-run libraries proved too limiting for the demand for reading and reading material, so some independent publishers took it upon themselves to print quantities of classic literature, bibles, philosophy books, pamphlets and almanacs en masse. One example is La Bibliothèque Bleue. This French publisher played a big role in the proliferation of books to commoners in villages and towns in France. With the spread of literacy came the spread of knowledge and thus people began to question their loyalties to the tradition of oligarchies in power. This wave of Enlightenment found its way to New England, or what is now the United States of America, where readers engaged with philosophies that would fuel their rebellion against the British at the time of the American Revolution. By the 1800s, more and more publishers were making books en masse available to the public. In 1882, people had become “book collectors” and valued books as necessities in their households. The explosion of private, personal collections of books as opposed the public, library collections at this time is what is referred to as cultural bibliomania (see Brunet). Printing in North America In order to understand printing in Canada, one must understand the politics of the time. When the first printing press arrived in North America, the national borders that separated Canada from the United States had yet to be defined. But with the spread of Enlightenment ideas, thirteen colonies in North America decided to rebel against the British Empire and declare Independence in 1776. The American Revolutionary war (1775-83) ultimately led to the formation of The United States of America and the remaining colonies, the Canadian provinces, remained loyal to the Mother Country. Books and the capacity to print books on their own since 1640 helped the Americans to spread knowledge and form a solidarity in rebellion. The mixed French, English, Scotch, Irish and Aboriginal population in what is now Canada had more difficulty in seeing eye to eye with one another. Firstly, the population was much smaller than the Rebels of the USA and so forming strength in numbers proved harder. Secondly, the Loyalists had less access to books, no printing press at the time and were treated unequally by the state. The “two solitudes” of French and English Canada reached a point of no return from 1755, at the time of the Acadian Expulsion, to 1760 when the British had conquered both Quebec and Montreal. However, the British did not grant Catholics any civil rights until the 1830s, so for almost a century, French, Scottish and Irish Catholics, along with all the Aboriginals they had converted, did not have a voice in the political decisions that concerned them. Excluded from contributed to newspaper media, these Catholics did not always identify with the British protestant Loyalists. Instead of rebelling like their fellow New World pioneers south of the border, however, many formed smaller groups of like-minded individuals who then carried out political reform and debate with Britain. (Add image of The Halifax Gazette) Books Make their Way to Canada After one hundred years of printing books and newspapers in the United States, the printing press made its way to Canada in 1752. Printer John Bushell came to Halifax from Boston and opened the first printing shop there. It is thus that the Halifax Gazette was born. At the time of the American Revolution, in 1776, two more Bostonian Loyalists fled the then British colony of Massachusetts. Publishers and journalists at the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston Weekly News, Margaret Draper and her young apprentice John Howe made their way to Halifax. After dominating the printing industry in Nova Scotia for several years, Howe’s son, the Honourable Joseph Howe bought and ran the Novascotian newspaper. Shortly thereafter, he became premier of Nova Scotia and John A. MacDonald’s federal government (see Fauteux). From then and there the wave of both printed documents—at first newsletters, calendars, sales notices, order forms, certificates, army bills, pamphlets and finally books—and printing presses spread across Canada. The following are the dates of arrival for the printing press in Canada (see Fauteux). It is important to remember, however, that most of the provincial and territorial boundaries in Canada had yet to be defined. The locations below are listed as what they are known as today. Discrepancies include, Quebec which was then called New France and Lower Canada, Ontario, which was then Upper Canada, and especially the prairies and the territories. The first press in the west was manufactured in what is now known as Manitoba, but at the time, it would have been in the Northwest Territories. Since the borders kept changing over history, the location of the press is simply noted as Red River. In 1877, the Oblate Father R. P. Grouard transported a printing press to Deer Lake and later on to Peace River, both of which were then located in the Northwest Territories, but are now considered northern Manitoba. In 1888, Father Grouard transported the printing press by Eskimo dogsled to many tribal communities in the far north of the territories (see Fauteux 177). 1752: Halifax 1686 or 1764: Quebec* 1785: New Brunswick 1788: Prince Edward Island 1793: Ontario 1807: Newfoundland 1841: The Prairies and the Northwest Territories 1858: British Columbia 1897: The Yukon *The records containing the history of the Quebec printing press are still under debate. Printing in Quebec: A Phenomenon of L’oubli In Canadian book history studies there persists the mystery of when and from where the first printing press came to the province of Quebec. Historians are divided into those who believe that colonizers from France brought the press to what we now call Quebec and what was then in 1686 called New France; and those who believe that the English brought the first press to Quebec after conquering the country. Like the Franciscans in Mexico and the Puritan ministers in New England, the original missionaries to New France wanted to print and diffuse information of the gospel freely. In the Journal de Jésuites from September, 1665, there is a statement about the decision to write to France for a printing shop to be brought to the New World (see Fauteux 64). There has also been evidence from the Census of 1667 that a printer resided in New France, and, according to the Report of the Canadian Archives for 1910, at least one document has been found containing the date of 1686 and its printing lo
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