Friday, October 17, 2014

10 of the Oldest Known Surviving Books in the World


With news this week of the discovery of what could be the earliest known siddur, a Jewish prayer book dated at around 840 AD – we have put together a list of 10 of the oldest known surviving books in the world today.
Writing and literature are thought to have been first developed between the 7th and 4th millenium BC. Since the dawn of writing an incredible array of different materials have been used for recording text, including clay, silk, pottery, papyrus, even coffins – so the question of the oldest surviving book depends very much on how you classify one.
The Mirriam-Webster Dictionary defines a book as: a set of printed sheets of paper that are held together inside a cover; a long written work. This definition rules out clay tablets, scrolls and similar, though many scholars have expanded the definition to include any significant piece of writing bound together inside a cover.
The question can also touch on the nature of the book. Some scholars have considered that a significant book should contain aworldview, setting it apart from mere accounting or administrative records.
We have tried to pull together what we hope is an interesting range of some of the oldest surviving books in the world. We cover everything from the earliest surviving printed books, to the oldest known surviving book in existence.

Madrid Codex

Madrid Codex (Maya)
Discovered in Spain in the 1860s, the Madrid Codex – also known as the Tro-Cortesianus Codex – is one of the only surviving books attributable to the pre-Columbian Maya culture of around 900–1521 AD.
Most likely produced in Yucatán, the book is written in Yucatecan, a group of Mayan languages which includes Yucatec, Itza, Lacandon and Mopan.
Experts disagree on the exact date the Madrid Codex was created, though it is said by some to have been made before the Spanish conquest of the 16th century.
The book is currently held in the Museo de América in Madrid, Spain.
Source: 1. Image: 1.

Estimated age: 494 years old.


Gutenberg Bible

Gutenberg Bible, Lenox Copy, New York Public Library, 2009
The Gutenberg Bible, also known as the 42-line Bible, is listed by the Guinness Book of World records as the world’s oldest mechanically printed book – the first copies of which were printed in 1454-1455 AD.
Printed by Johannes Gutenberg, in Mainz, Germany, it is considered to be oldest printed book using movable type in the West – though in China there were examples of book printing many centuries earlier, such as the Diamond Sūtra.
There are 48 original copies in known existence, of which 21 are complete. The above image is of the New York Public Library’s copy, the first to come to the USA.
Source: 1. Image: 1.

Estimated age: 559 years old.


Celtic Psalter

Scotland's oldest book - Edinburgh Univeristy
The Celtic Psalter is described as Scotland’s Book of Kells. The pocket-sized book of Psalms is housed at the University of Edinburgh, where it went on public display in 2009 for the first time.
The book is thought to be have been created in the 11th century AD, making it Scotland’s oldest surviving book.
Source: 1.

Estimated age: 938 years old.


Diamond Sūtra

Diamond Sutra. Cave 17, Dunhuang, ink on paper
A Buddhist holy text, the Diamond Sūtra is considered to be the oldest surviving dated printed book in the world.
Found in a walled up cave in China along with other printed materials, the book is made up of Chinese characters printed on a scroll of grey printed paper, wrapped along a wooden pole.
The book was copied by a man called Wong Jei, in May 868 AD, on the instruction of his parents, which is noted at the end of the text.
Source: 1. Image: 1.

Estimated age: 1,145 years old.


Siddur, Jewish Prayer Book

The Green Collection - Siddur, Jewish Prayer book
Discovered in 2013, the third major discovery this year, was a ‘siddur’ – a Jewish prayer book dated back to around 840 AD.
The complete parchment, still in its original binding, is so old that it contains Babylonian vowel pointing – akin to the Old or Middle English for the English language.
This allowed experts to date the book to the times of Geonim – Babylonian & Talmudic leaders during the Middle ages.
Source: 1. Image: 1.

Estimated age: 1,173 years old.


Book of Kells

Book of Kells
The Book of Kells is kept in the Trinity College Library in Dublin, Ireland, and is thought to have been created by Celtic monks around 800 AD.
The book is an incredibly ornate illuminated manuscript Gospel book, written in Latin, containing the four Gospels of the New Testament.
Image: 1.

Estimated age: 1,213 years old.


St Cuthbert Gospel

St Cuthbert Gospel - British Library
Europe’s oldest known surviving intact book is the St Cuthbert Gospel, bought by the British Library in 2012 for £9 million pounds as part of a fundraising campaign.
The book was buried with St Cuthbert, an early British Christian leader, on the island of Lindisfarne off Northumberland, in around 698 AD.
Only just surviving the Vikings conquests, the book was moved to Durham to avoid Viking raiders, narrowly escaping destruction.
The book was again rediscovered in 1104 AD, with an inscription added to the inside cover (see image below).
St Cutchbert inscription - British Library
You can now view the a digitised version on the book on the British Library website.
Source: 1

Estimated age: 1,315 years old.


Nag Hammadi Library

Nag Hammadi Library - Codex IV
Considered to be some of the oldest surviving bound books – 13 leather bound papyrus codices were discovered in 1945 buried inside a sealed jar, by a local man in the town of Nag Hammadi in Upper Egypt.
The books, containing Gnostic texts, are dated from around the first half of the 4th century AD. Written in the Coptic language, the codices are thought to have been copied from Greek.
The Nag Hammadi codices are currently found at the Coptic Museum in Cairo, Egypt.
Source/Image: 1.

Estimated age: 1,693 years old.


Pyrgi Gold Tablets

Pyrgi Gold Tablets
Found in 1964 in the excavation of a sanctuary in ancient Pyrgi, Italy, the three gold plates date back to 500 BC.
Containing holes around the edges, scholars think they were once bound together.
Two are written in Etruscan text, with one written in Phoenician – comprising of a dedication from King Thefarie Velianas to the Phoenician goddess Astarte.
The plates are now displayed at the National Etruscan Museum in Rome, Italy.
Source/Image: 1.

Estimated age: 2,513 years old.


Etruscan Gold Book

Etruscan Gold Book
Thought to be the oldest multi-page book in the world, dating to about 660 BC, the Etruscan Gold Book was discovered 70 years ago whilst digging a canal off the Strouma river in Bulgaria.
The book is made from 6 sheets of 24 carat gold, bound together with rings.
The plates are written in Etruscan characters, and also depicted is a horse, horseman, a Siren, a lyre, and soldiers.
The book was donated to Bulgaria’s National History Museum in Sofia, by an anonymous 87 year old donor.
Etruscans were an ancient race of people that migrated from Lydia – in now what would be modern Turkey – settling in central Italy nearly 3 thousand years ago.
Sources: 12. Image: 1.

Estimated age: 2,673 years old.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Fabulous articles on bookselling


Here's a teaser, check out the rest.

Snapshot of the Revolution in Book Retailing, Circa 1978

Upheaval in the bookselling trade is not a purely 21st century phenomenon. The introduction of cheap paperbacks during the decade following World War Two turned the bookselling trade upside down, pushing the locus of the trade away from small shops located in big city downtowns to newsstands and drugstores, with their ubiquitous spinner racks. Cheap paperbacks helped (along with the introduction of TV into nearly all households) to kill off the formerly lucrative niche of pulp fiction magazine publishing; many of the specialty pulps disappeared altogether (nurse pulps, airwar pulps, and western pulps, to name a few), and the science fiction and mystery pulps shrank back to a handful of titles, the survivors soon reducing their format to the smaller (and cheaper to manufacture and distribute) digest size.
More recently, in the middle to late 1970s, the bookselling trade was transformed yet again, this time by the rapid spread of shopping mall-based national and regional bookstore chains which concentrated on carrying large selections of paperbacks and discounted hardbacks, most of the latter being “remainders,” unsold books which had been returned by stores and then offered by their publishers for resale at steeply discounted prices.
I came across this Time Magazine article from 1978, entitled “Rambunctious Revival of Books,” which gives a sepia-toned portrait of the bookselling trade thirty-five years ago, before the rise of the superstores, when mall-based chains such as Waldenbooks and B. Dalton Booksellers were the Amazon.coms/800-pound gorillas of their day. (Note: This article is brought to you by the Internet Archive Way-Back Machine, so it may take an extra few seconds to load.)
“Once upon a time book retailing was about as exciting as watching haircuts. Hardcover books were often sold in musty downtown stores by fussy bibliophiles, and many readers turned to paperback racks in the more informal atmosphere of supermarkets or drugstores. Today the bookstore business is in the midst of a rambunctious revival. … Largely as a result of their merchandising razzle-dazzle, the chains are inducing people to buy more books than ever. … Helped by the chains’ expansion, stores are springing up, increasing from about 7,300 less than two years ago to almost 9,000 now.
“In the forefront of the merchandising blitz are such chains as Waldenbooks, the nation’s largest book retailer, owned by Carter Hawley Hale Stores. Begun in 1962, the Walden chain now has 498 shops dotted around the country, mostly in suburban shopping malls. In recent years it has been opening a store a week. B. Dalton, a subsidiary of Dayton Hudson Corp., the department store conglomerate, is the second largest bookseller. Dalton too has been growing at a feverish rate in recent years and has 339 stores in 40 states. Other chains include Doubleday stores, an affiliate of the publishing house, and Brentano’s, an affiliate of Macmillan. The chains account for up to half of all hardcover retail sales, and their share of the market grows every month.
“These big companies operate with a cold efficiency that astounds the oldtime booksellers, who often take a warm proprietary interest in their wares. Highly computerized Dalton, which carries about 30,000 titles in each shop, assigns every book a number; when the book is sold the number is entered through the cash register into a computer, which produces a weekly report on what every store in the chain has sold. Slow-moving titles are quickly culled. Most chains concentrate almost exclusively on bestsellers—novels, selfhelp, biographies and the like. …
“Kroch’s, which has a reputation as a quality bookseller with an interest in the literary field, continues to operate in the old tradition; its sales people, for instance, often phone customers to alert them to new books that they might like. Against this, Dalton offers a plethora of autograph parties featuring such guests as Charlton Heston and former Treasury Secretary William Simon, and some selective discounting. Like many independents, Carl Kroch, the chain’s president, insists there will always be a place for the old, full-price shop. Says he: ‘You can’t provide our kind of services on such a large scale. Besides, there’s room for everyone. The public is still underexposed to books.’”
The modern reader has to stifle a laugh at the article’s swooning description of “highly computerized Dalton … (which) assigns every book a number.” Wow! What a wonder of the modern world! But the words of Carl Kroch sound much less dated – because they echo virtually every press release sent out by Leonard Riggio, Barnes and Noble’s chairman, whose firm, the only surviving national superstore chain in America, now finds itself in precisely the same market position as Kroch’s Books was in back in 1978.
Still, this article inspired a lot of nostalgia for me. I was thirteen years old in 1978, what Isaac Asimov has called “the Golden Age of science fiction.” It certainly was for me. I had just discovered Anne McCaffrey, Robert Silverberg, and Ursula K. LeGuin. I began building my science fiction reference library at my local Waldenbooks, tucked away inside the 163rd Street Shopping Center in North Miami Beach, spending my weekly allowance and bar-mitzvah gift money on such tomes as The Visual Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and David Kyle’s wonderful pair of beautifully illustrated, large-format histories, A Pictorial History of Science Fiction and The Illustrated Book of Science Fiction Ideas and Dreams (still own all three of them and have been sharing them with my oldest son). That particular Waldenbooks, by the way, was where I met the first, great (unrequited) love of my life, a cultured young lady seven years my senior who was working as a bookstore clerk to pay her way through college. The nearest B. Dalton Bookseller was downtown, at the Miami Omni Mall; due to their well-stocked history section, that was my go-to source for big, thick, photo-choked histories of warships and armored vehicles. Four years later, when I went to New Orleans to attend Loyola University, I discovered a Brentano’s Books at the Shops at Canal Place mall, located downtown near the Mississippi River; it was a charming spot at which to enjoy a cappuccino and page through an imported art book.
I imagine that come 2048, thirty-five years from now, some other commentator will come across an article in the Internet Archive Way-Back Machine (or its future equivalent) fromForbes or The Wall Street Journal or Wired, describing the disruptive impact of Amazon on the bookselling trade and the death-throes of the physical superstores. I wonder whether that middle-aged commentator will look back on his or her teen book-buying years and remember the experience of shopping on Amazon with the warm glow of nostalgia?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

C.S. Lewis’s Ideal Daily Routine

http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2014/08/14/c-s-lewis-daily-routine/

by 
“It is essential of the happy life that a man would have almost no mail.”
I’ve had a longtime fascination with the daily routines of notable writers and their creative rituals. One of the most lyrical, opinionated, and altogether wonderful comes from C.S. Lewis — a man of great wisdom on writing and extraordinary capacity for nuance in existential matters. In his 1955 spiritual memoir,Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life(public library), Lewis outlines his ideal daily routine, modeled after his time studying privately at Great Bookham with his father’s old tutor at the age of fifteen:
[I] settled into a routine which has ever since served in my mind as an archetype, so that what I still mean when I speak of a “normal” day (and lament that normal days are so rare) is a day of the Bookham pattern. For if I could please myself I would always live as I lived there. I would choose always to breakfast at exactly eight and to be at my desk by nine, there to read or write till one. If a cup of good tea or coffee could be brought me about eleven, so much the better. A step or so out of doors for a pint of beer would not do quite so well; for a man does not want to drink alone and if you meet a friend in the taproom the break is likely to be extended beyond its ten minutes. At one precisely lunch should be on the table…
Like artist Maira Kalman, who has long advocated for walking as a creative catalyst, Lewis was an avid walker — but with a key disclaimer:
By two at the latest I would be on the road. Not, except at rare intervals, with a friend. Walking and talking are two very great pleasures, but it is a mistake to combine them. Our own noise blots out the sounds and silences of the outdoor world; and talking leads almost inevitably to smoking, and then farewell to nature as far as one of our senses is concerned. The only friend to walk with is one … who so exactly shares your taste for each mood of the countryside that a glance, a halt, or at most a nudge, is enough to assure us that the pleasure is shared.
(Of course, walking with the right kind of companion can only amplify our capacity to pay attention, rather than diminishing it.)
Lewis holds equally strong opinions about his tea. One can almost picture him demanding a strict adherence to George Orwell’s eleven golden rules for the perfect cup of tea as he describes the afternoon ritual:
The return from the walk, and the arrival of tea, should be exactly coincident, and not later than a quarter past four. Tea should be taken in solitude…
He goes on to outline the qualitative norms for permissible multitasking during mealtime, with some humbling criteria for what he considers light — “gossipy, formless” — reading:
Eating and reading are two pleasures that combine admirably. Of course not all books are suitable for mealtime reading. It would be a kind of blasphemy to read poetry at table. What one wants is a gossipy, formless book which can be opened anywhere. The ones I learned so to use at Bookham were Boswell, and a translation of Herodotus, and Lang’s History of English LiteratureTristram ShandyElia and The Anatomy of Melancholy are all good for the same purpose.
And then, it’s back to work until bedtime, the latter being a matter of strict discipline — because, lest we forget, the correlation between sleep and literary productivity is not to be dismissed:
At five a man should be at work again, and at it till seven. Then, at the evening meal and after, comes the time for talk, or, failing that, for lighter reading; and unless you are making a night of it with your cronies (and at Bookham I had none) there is no reason why you should ever be in bed later than eleven.
But Lewis’s most prescient money-quote — the one likely to elicit a bitter cackle from today’s inbox-weary writer — comes at the very end:
But when is a man to write his letters? You forget that I am describing the happy life I led with Kirk or the ideal life I would live now if I could. And it is essential of the happy life that a man would have almost no mail and never dread the postman’s knock.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Forbes's Top-Earning Authors: 'The Kids Are Coming'

Wednesday, September 10, 2014     Shelf Awareness


Veronica Roth
E.L. James's reign at the top of Forbes magazine's annual "World's Top-Earning Authors" list turned out to be brief, if lucrative. The Fifty Shadesauthor fell from the #1 spot in 2013 ($95 million) to a tie for 14th place this year ($10 million), as newcomers Veronica Roth ($17 million), 
Gillian Flynn ($9 million) and John Green ($9 million) hit the list for the first time, prompting Forbes to note: "Watch out Danielle Steel and Stephen King--the kids are coming."

To formulate its highest-earning authors list, Forbes "looks at print, e-book and audiobook sales from Nielsen BookScan figures, consider TV and movie earnings and talk to authors, agents, publishers and other experts." The top-earning authors, as ranked by earnings between June 2013 and June 2014, are:

  • James Patterson ($90 million)
  • Dan Brown ($28 million)
  • Nora Roberts ($23 million)
  • Danielle Steel ($22 million)
  • Janet Evanovich ($20 million)
  • Jeff Kinney ($17 million)
  • Veronica Roth ($17 million)
  • John Grisham ($17 million)
  • Stephen King ($17 million)
  • Suzanne Collins ($16 million)
  • J.K. Rowling ($14 million)
  • George R.R. Martin ($12 million)
  • David Baldacci ($11 million)
  • Rick Riordan ($10 million)
  • E.L. James ($10 million)
  • Gillian Flynn ($9 million)
  • John Green ($9 million)

Friday, July 11, 2014

Check out ABE's impressive archives of articles about books, authors, illustrators book collecting and ephemera

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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Independent Booksellers Week

This is in the UK, but I thought it might be of some interest to booklovers on this side of The Pond.


Welcome to Independent Booksellers Week!
Independent Booksellers Week 2014 will take place from 28th June to 5th July this year.
Independent Booksellers Week is part of the Books Are My Bag campaign, and seeks to celebrate independent bookshops in the UK and Ireland.  We do this with events, celebrations, reading groups, storytelling, author signings, literary lunches and face painting!  Your local bookshop will have their own way of celebrating, and we encourage you to visit to celebrate with them.

To find your local independent bookshop, check here 
You might also like to VOTE for your FAVOURITE Bookshop – our colleagues at National Book Tokens Caboodle are running a competition for consumers to do just that – check it out here
And if you are interested in the fabulous books stocked by indie bookshops, check our our IBW Book Award Shortlist and visit your local indie bookshop to pick up a copy of one of these wonderful titles – here
The Guardian newspaper is publishing a supplement on Saturday 28th June, featuring the best of children’s books, reviewed by some of our leading children’s booksellers.  Look out for the Guide this weekend.
And you may have seen the very exciting news about James Patterson donating £250,000 to independent bookshops in the UK & Ireland – make sure to help celebrate these wonderful places by visting your local bookshop during IBW, and every week!  See JAmes Patterson talking about his gift here
Check out our Twitter account – @IndieBound_UK –  for regular updates on IBW event and bookshop happenings, including the Bookshop Crawl on Saturday 5th July, our Great Bookshop Debate at Foyles on 2nd July and our IBW Literary Death Match on 3rd July – here’s more info on all of those:

If you are a publisher interested in getting involved in IBW for 2015, please email sharon.benton@booksellers.org.uk. If you are a bookseller who would like to register to participate in IBW 2015, or to receive the 2014 IBW POS Kit, again email Sharon and she will register you.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Amazon Overlord



Reposted from: 
Thalia Press Authors Co-op Blog
By Gary Phillips
June 23rd, 2014


There’s an ongoing dust-up over the selling price of e-books between publishing giant Hachette and retail behemoth Amazon. While Hachette author Stephen Colbert can give Amazon the double finger on his show, the rest of us might not be so bold. Not for the first time in a fight with a member of the Big Five, Amazon has shown it is not to be effed with. It has taken away the pre-order buttons on upcoming Hachette books – includingSilkworm by bestseller J.K. Rowling, and current Hachette books are said to be not in stock or new copies are not for sale.
While it would seem that a big, to use the baller term, like Hachette wouldn’t blink and promote its titles on other sources like Barnes and Noble online, iTunes and such, it seems Amazon has it by the short and curlies when it comes to the ebook versions of their cataloge. For reasons that are painfully technical, I reference what sci-fi writer and social commentator Cory Doctrow wrote on this matter in the June 20 Guardian.com:
“Hachette, more than any other publisher in the industry, has had a single minded insistence on DRM [digital rights management] since the earliest days. It’s likely that every Hachette ebook ever sold has been locked with some company’s proprietary DRM, and therein lies the rub. Under US law only the company that put the D
smartphone-obey
RM on a copyrighted work can remove it. Although you can learn how to remove Amazon’s DRM with literally a single, three-word search, it is nevertheless illegal to do so, unless you’re Amazon…It is precisely because Hachette has been so successful in selling its ebooks through Amazon that it can’t afford to walk away from the retailer. By allowing Amazon to put a lock on its products whose key only Amazon possessed, Hachette has allowed Amazon to utterly usurp its relationship with its customers.”

There’s a well-done article by George Packer that ran in the February 27 issue of the New Yorkerabout the irresistible rise of Amazon. Entitled “Cheap Words,” the piece begins with this portentous statement, “In the era of the Kindle, a book costs the same price as a sandwich.” Packer goes on to further note that its founder Jeff Bezos intended for Amazon to sell books as a way of gathering data on affluent, educated shoppers. That books would be priced close to cost, in order to increase sales volume.
As an example of how Amazon utilizes its prized data, this past week they released the Fire smartphone. The phone comes with an app called Firefly – not to be confused with Joss Whedon’s cult TV sci-fi show of the same name — that can identify a song from a few lyrics or, I guess, if you point it at a particular crystal vase, hipping you want kind of bric-a-brac it is. Of course these items for just a few clicks away can be ordered, paid for by your credit card on file, and delivered (maybe same-day) to your home or office from Amazon. As a sales incentive, any picture you take with the Fire phone will for free be stored on one of the retailers’ mighty computers.
Hmm, I wonder if facial recognition software will ID a Hachette author you might snap a pic of and the phone sends you a note urging you to buy a book from a Holtzbrinck author?